With less than nine months until midterm elections, states still have a long way to go to protect their voting systems from security threats, according to a new report released Monday by the Center for American Progress. Following the nation’s 2016 elections, in which hackers targeted 21 states and breached Illinois’ voter registration system, states are racing against the clock to improve their election infrastructure. In 2017, Colorado became the first state to require risk-limiting post-election audits. Weeks ahead of its November elections, Virginia quickly switched from electronic voting machines to a paper ballot voting system. And many states are working hand in hand on the issue with the Department of Homeland Security or the National Guard. Still, no state received an A in Monday’s report, which evaluates how efficiently states (and D.C.) are protecting their elections from hacking and machine malfunction. Eleven states – including Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and New York– received a B, 23 states received a C and 17 states received a D or an F.
One of the factors the study considered was whether states meet cybersecurity standards for voter registration systems. Many states use voter registration databases that are at least a decade old, which leave them susceptible to breaches, the report explains.
If successful, hackers can not only gain access to voters’ personal information, but they can also prevent them from voting. For instance, a hacker can change the spelling of someone’s name in the system so it doesn’t match their ID, making them ineligible to vote in some states.
Various agencies of U.S. intelligence concluded that Russia played a part in trying to interfere in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and there are warnings the country may try again in 2018. Russia has denied the claims.