Pick one word for how the Russians interfered with the 2016 presidential election. How about “distrust?” They used trolling, false stories, fake accounts, and cyberattacks to sow distrust among the American people. And without a doubt, Russians and other adversaries are working hard now to spark anger, confusion, and conflict along economic, gender, political, and racial lines within our country. While an effort to reduce confidence in our voting systems — the actual machines and processes we use to register voters and elect our leaders — was a factor in 2016, I believe it will be an even greater factor moving forward. Why? Because it would be so effective. The objectives of campaigns like Russia’s are to divide and demoralize the public, muddy discourse, and discredit and undermine whoever they see as opponents. What better way to do that than by delegitimizing the election results, particularly in hotly contested races where a small number of votes can make all the difference?
Luckily, we can do something about it — quickly and cost-effectively — by making “risk-limiting audits” a fundamental part of the election process. Just as most reputable businesses do audits as a matter of course, why shouldn’t we take reasonable steps to “trust and verify” our election outcomes?
… It may come as a surprise, but risk-limiting audits are not particularly difficult or expensive to accomplish. In addition to the State of Colorado’s experience with two risk-limiting audits, election officials from the City of Fairfax, Virginia, say they’ve found them relatively easy to implement.
And the states have access to funds. In March, Congress made $380 million available to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for HAVA Election Security Fund grants to support election activities, including enhancements to election technology and other election security improvements. In addition, many in Congress have supported the Secure Elections Act, which would establish protocols for cyber threat information sharing between state election officials and the Department of Homeland Security. As a next step, I encourage the development of clear and consistent processes and standards for risk-limiting audits that can be shared across all states.