The U.S. election system will likely face a significant trial this year, thanks to a summer of startling revelations including nation-state-linked attacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and state voter databases, along with a statement of no-confidence by the Republican nominee. The result has been a slew of media stories positing how the election could be hacked. The ongoing cyber-attacks and raised doubts will put states’ choice of voting technology under the microscope, with a focus on the security of voting systems and the ability to audit the results produced by those balloting systems, according to election security experts. Unfortunately, while all but five states now have at least some systems with a verifiable paper trail, more than half do not have meaningful post-election audits, according to Verified Voting, a group focused on improving election-system integrity and accuracy. “We would like to see post-election audits everywhere,” Pamela Smith, director of the group, told eWEEK. “There is actual research showing that being able to conduct a robust audit in a public way brings confidence in the election. A voter-verifiable paper ballot is a tool to instill confidence that the election has come to true result.”
The spotlight on election security and doubts from grandstanding candidates brings into focus a truth about elections: They are only as good as the citizens’ confidence in them. In the end, it matters little whether there is a threat and more whether the election technology and systems can convince the vast majority of people that the election was fair and accurate, J. Alex Halderman, professor of computer science and engineering at University of Michigan and director of UM’s Center for Computer Security and Society, told eWEEK. “Any election system must be able to prove to the supporters of the candidate who lost that the loser was indeed defeated,” he said. “But unfortunately, the assertions … that the elections will be rigged are really hard to disprove.”
… The focus on the machines and voting will be good in the long run, and no election official wants to be the equivalent of 2016’s Florida, says Verified Voting’s Smith.”One thing I do know is that election officials are working hard to make sure there is trust in their elections,” she said.
“Election officials do not want it to go wrong, and this news cycle has been challenging because everyone is starting to pay a lot more attention. “In the end, the contentiousness in U.S. politics may turn small discrepancies into larger issues, leaving election officials will a common hope, Smith said.”The prayer of election officials is for large margins,” she said.