On March 23rd, Congress allocated $380 million to states to upgrade election security. This is a positive development. In the age of unprecedented hacking risks, researchers have found that electronic voting infrastructure — including voting machines and registration databases — have serious vulnerabilities. While there’s no evidence that vote totals were hacked in 2016, there’s strong evidence that hackers have been testing the waters.
While federal funding can help states address these issues, simply upgrading or replacing election infrastructure is not sufficient. It is essential that states work with the Department of Homeland Security or other trusted providers to scan their systems for cyber vulnerabilities, and follow best practices identified by computer scientists, national security leaders, and bipartisan experts in elections administration to mitigate hacking risks. On March 20, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its long-awaited recommendations on election security and concluded that requiring paper ballots, banning wireless components and implementing statistically sound audits of election results are essential safeguards. Last year, a group of 100 leading computer scientists and other election administration experts voiced the same conclusion. Through years of researching voting equipment security in real election administration environments, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has come to similar conclusions about what it will take to defend elections.