Americans are now voting in the first major election since Russians launched a broad assault on the 2016 presidential campaign. And while election officials and security experts remain vigilant through Election Day, voters have a critical role in the fight to keep elections safe and accessible. The average voter shouldn’t be too concerned about foreign interference in elections, said Maurice Turner, a senior technologist at the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, D.C. But, he said, that doesn’t mean she should be passive about secure elections. By understanding the system, its flaws and what needs changing, voters can call for accountability from election officials and state policymakers. “I’m hoping for a quiet Election Day,” Turner said. “I’m hoping that we can focus on the issues that are on the ballot versus how we’re going to count the ballot.” Malicious actors might attack the midterms by manipulating voter registration rolls. While a May report from the Senate Intelligence Committee said the “U.S. election infrastructure is fundamentally resilient,” it also outlined Russian attempts in 2016 to scan election systems in 21 states and aggressively try to infiltrate six of them.
… If hackers were able to get into state voter registration databases, they could change party affiliations or addresses, or delete voters from the databases entirely. Any discrepancy could lead to mass confusion on Election Day. Confusion leads to long lines, which could frustrate voters enough to make them give up on voting.
If voters check their registration status online before Election Day and spot an error, correcting it can not only save them a headache on Election Day, but it also might flag a potential hack for local officials. Voters in 37 states and the District of Columbia can register to vote online, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported. And vote.org lists ways all voters can check their registration.
Voting machines are woefully old in the United States, making them easily hackable. Voters in 41 states will use election equipment that is more than a decade old, an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School found. In 13 states, some counties will use less secure paperless voting machines, according to the nonprofit Verified Voting. Five states use only paperless voting machines, opening them to potential breaches.
Voting machines, and especially older models, are susceptible to hacks, even if they’re not connected to the internet, said Lawrence Norden, the deputy director of the Brennan Center’s democracy program. Even memory cards in central locations in a polling place can be compromised by hackers, he said.
Many of these issues could be resolved if states and counties moved to paper ballots.