Leading up to Nov. 6, 2018, anyone with a stake in American democracy was holding their breath. After a Russian effort leading up to 2016 to sow chaos and polarization, and to degrade confidence in American institutions, what sort of widespread cyberattack awaited the voting system in the first national election since? None, it seems. High turnout overwhelmed election administrators, causing some voters to wait hours to cast ballots. Florida maintained its reputation as a state that’s been working out the kinks in its voting system for nearly two decades. And a congressional race in North Carolina is still up in the air as the state’s Board of Elections investigates alleged election fraud by a political operative. But an operation like the one Russia waged two years ago?
“We didn’t see any coordinated effort or targeting that interrupted the elections process,” said Matt Masterson, a senior cybersecurity adviser at the Department of Homeland Security. “[Nothing] that prevented folks from voting or compromised election systems in any way … certainly nowhere close to what we saw in 2016.”
Experts say that is not because U.S. election systems are hardened in a way that prevents such attacks.
Despite security improvements over the past two years and a newfound awareness of the threat, voting in America remains vulnerable. And it remains unclear whether lawmakers will allocate adequate resources soon enough to shore it up before a presidential election that is just 23 months away.