Exercising our right to vote is the purest expression of our faith in democracy. Without a shared sense of trust in the integrity of that vote, we risk becoming a nation dangerously divided against itself. Great vigilance would be in order, then, even if Pennsylvanians could rely on secure, resilient election systems and architecture. The reality, however, is otherwise. Today our state is among the most vulnerable in the country to hacking and cyber attack – a democratic four-alarm blaze just waiting to happen. Pennsylvania’s role as a perennial swing-state brings with it high stakes, close presidential elections, and even closer scrutiny. In 2016, Donald Trump’s margin of victory here – fewer than 70,000 votes – was barely one percent of the nearly six million votes cast statewide. We know that faith in the validity of our elections is a quality much harder to earn than to lose. That’s why, as proud Pennsylvanians who have dedicated our careers to justice, law, and education, we feel strongly that the time is now to address this vulnerability. We must come together as a commonwealth, as communities, and as citizens to make an honest assessment of Pennsylvania’s election security architecture, to diagnose and discuss its strengths and weaknesses, and to plan for a better, more secure future.
This is why we are launching a nonpartisan, independent Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security designed to bring about concrete improvements before the next presidential election in 2020. With support from The Heinz Endowments, and collaboration between University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security, Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute CERT Division, and Verified Voting, we will convene experts and leaders from across the state with a clear goal: strengthening the security of the systems on which Pennsylvanians rely to exercise their right to vote.
The causes of our voting woes are many and complex. It is beyond the scope of any single commission to seek to address them all. But the growing concerns over our current election security must not go unaddressed.