Long before Florida’s online voter registration system malfunctioned and temporarily throttled back new registrations last month, long before Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher called it a glitch-prone “mess” in need of review, Florida’s system for maintaining voter registration records was dogged by reports of serious flaws. Everything from software security to unauthorized access to voters’ personal information were among the problems cited in Auditor General reports and follow-ups from 2006 through mid-2015. Last month, Bucher discovered a new problem: Just as Floridians are poised to head to the polls for the most contested midterm elections in recent memory, the state’s brand new online voter registration system crashed. Voter registration, and how those registration records are kept, is more than a tech-induced headache. When Russian-sponsored hackers tried to worm their way into the elections systems of 21 states in 2016, state-housed voter registration records were prime targets.
That’s because you don’t have to fiddle with the vote-counting software to fiddle with the vote.
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Hacks that confuse, delay or block registered voters are every bit as much of a threat as rogue equipment counting those votes.
“You just have to make Election Day chaotic, and particularly if it is in Florida,” said Ion Sancho, former supervisor of elections in Leon County and a nationally-recognized advocate for more secure voting technology.