America’s election is at risk of being stolen: That, in essence, is what some news reports, as well as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his allies, have been suggesting lately. … Election integrity and cybersecurity experts say there are real security vulnerabilities in America’s election system—or, more accurately, systems, as there are more than 9,000 separate state and local jurisdictions that conduct elections around the country. A number of states and municipalities continue to use insecure electronic and/or online voting technologies, despite years of warnings that these systems have bugs and poor security. It’s also true that a motivated individual could, in theory, go to the polls and pretend he or she is someone else, or lie on an absentee ballot. There are, however, two important caveats. One: Evidence of outright voter fraud of the sort Trump is warning about is extremely rare. Two: Even if a malevolent actor did succeed in meddling with an election—either by hacking into an electronic system or via lower-tech identity fraud—that doesn’t mean he or she could affect the outcome. Doing so would be extremely difficult in large part because of how fragmented the U.S. voting system is. … Pam Smith, president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit group that advocates for accurate and fair elections, says Ohio and Florida, in particular, have “been making all the moves in the right direction” after grappling with major voting crises last decade. Many counties in Ohio still use electronic voting machines, which provide the potential for hacking. But they require physical paper records of voters’ ballots, known as voter verifiable paper audit trails, which allow voters to confirm their votes were recorded correctly and also allow election officials to audit the vote tallies.
Smith says Ohio has also implemented a number of other provisions to safeguard its elections, including having emergency paper ballots on hand at polling places, conducting audits and barring its voting systems from being connected to the internet, which could allow a hacker to gain access to the machines remotely. Florida, meanwhile, has moved to a predominantly paper ballot system, with only a limited number of electronic voting systems that are being phased out.
Pennsylvania, however, is more of a mixed bag. The majority of Pennsylvania counties still use electronic voting systems without paper printouts, making them much more vulnerable to glitches or intentional meddling that would be more difficult to catch and correct. But it’s also worth noting that a mix of 10 different electronic voting machine models are at use in the state, according to data compiled by Verified Voting, making it that much more complicated for a would-be hacker to try to alter votes in multiple jurisdictions.
And then there’s online voting, which is primarily used for overseas and military voters. This is the most vulnerable of all types of voting, and the most difficult to verify or audit, experts say. More than half of U.S, states use it, but Smith says a number of states have become stricter about who is eligible to participate in online voting, including the swing state of Colorado. “It’s a small percentage of voters who would be eligible to use this,” says Smith, but “it’s still a concern.”
Full Article: Could the Presidential Election Be Stolen?.