Southern California officials are turning to data scientists for help spotting suspicious trends as voters head to the polls in primaries on Tuesday and cyber experts warn that Russia will seek to meddle in this year’s midterm elections. As part of a pilot project, the Orange County Registrar of Voters is shipping some of its data to researchers at the California Institute of Technology through a secure pipeline. They’re developing analytic tools that could help election officials review voting data for irregularities. California is one of eight states holding primaries Tuesday and Orange County alone has nearly 1.5 million registered voters. The aim of the California project is to help local officials pinpoint any “anomalies” in their data, providing “metric-based evaluations” on the integrity of elections, according to Michael Alvarez, a Caltech political science professor. The Caltech team will post its data analysis on an online dashboard.
“If there’s any indication that there’s any sort of meddlesome behavior going on,” then “they’ll know about it as quickly as possible and can act,” Alvarez said in an interview.
Data scientists see Orange County — traditionally more conservative and Republican than other parts of the state — as a rich testing ground because it’s large and has closely contested House races. Some of the Orange County districts include seats to replace retiring Republicans Representatives Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Darrell Issa.
Separately, Caltech’s site will run a live feed during Tuesday’s primaries, of election-related keywords, such as “voter fraud,” appearing on Twitter from across the country. Researchers are also tracking similar words specific to tweets that are geo-located to the county.