When Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft testified Wednesday in Washington about the security of America’s election systems, he made an astonishing and troubling statement. “The evidence indicates,” he said, “that voter fraud is an exponentially greater threat than hacking of election equipment.” What? Attempts to hack into America’s election systems are well-documented. The fact that they haven’t broadly succeeded, as far as we know, doesn’t mean they aren’t an imminent threat. “It’s disappointing to see this discredited fiction repeated by an election official,” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center in New York. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, testifying at the same hearing, was clear. “Election security in general, and cybersecurity in particular, is the most significant threat to the integrity of our election system,” he said. He’s right.
There are cases of confirmed voter fraud, to be sure. Ashcroft referred to such an incident in his testimony: a local case where two fraudulent ballots were cast in a legislative contest decided by a single vote.
What Ashcroft did not say, at least in his prepared testimony, is that voter fraud isextraordinarily rare. A successful cyber-intrusion into election systems, on the other hand, could affect tens of thousands of votes across dozens of states — an exponentially more dangerous threat to democracy, to coin a phrase, than voter fraud.
Russia tried to hack voter systems in 21 states in 2016, the committee chaired by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt was told Wednesday. Systems in two states were breached. Surely Ashcroft sees the danger from that kind of sophisticated ballot interference as a bigger problem than rare double-voting.