The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee told reporters on Wednesday he was disappointed that it had taken nearly a year for the Department of Homeland Security to notify 21 states that their voter registration systems had been targeted by hackers during the election. “There needs to be a more aggressive, whole-of-government approach in terms of protecting our electoral system,” said Democratic Sen. Mark Warner. “Remember, to make a change in a national election doesn’t require penetration into 50 states … arguably, you could pick two or three states, and two or three jurisdictions, and alter an election.”
Warner’s remark has raised new questions about whether the US’s electoral system makes its elections more vulnerable to manipulation. The presidential Electoral College System features a winner-take-all structure in states that experts say may not protect against or account for the kind of voter suppression mechanisms and social media manipulation Russia deployed last year.
Experts say it may never be possible to measure the effects Russian meddling had on the outcome of the election. But many agree that it is difficult to discount the possibility that Russia’s interference, in the words of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, “served to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election.”
“Warner’s statement is hard to evaluate in the abstract, but certainly two to three states could have made the difference in 2016,” said Josh Douglas, an election law and voting rights expert and professor at the University of Kentucky.