After Russia’s misinformation campaign rattled the 2016 United States election season, scrutiny over this year’s midterms has been intense. And while foreign cybersecurity threats have so far been relatively muted, an unclassified government report obtained by The Boston Globe this week indicates more than 160 suspected election-related incidents since the beginning of August, ranging from suspicious login attempts to compromised municipal networks. Officials haven’t attributed most of it to an actor yet, but the situations include suspicious attempted logins on election systems like voter databases and municipal network compromises. Even in July, Microsoft said it had spotted four incidents of attempted campaign phishing. … The government won’t go it alone. Verified Voting, a group that promotes election system best practices, is part of the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition, which offers a hotline for voter information and issues. Verified Voting particularly specializes in fielding questions about technology issues related to voting. Some of those have already come up; in Texas and Georgia, outdated software and poor design features on paperless voting machines have caused a small but jarring number of incidents in which votes appear to be switched from a voter’s selection.
“Issues come up all the time,” says Verified Voting president Marian Schneider. “Machines are down when the polls open, they didn’t boot up or the poll workers weren’t able to get them up and running. The other big issue that comes up is a calibration error where the touch screen got out of whack and needs to be adjusted or perhaps the voter put their hand on the touchscreen and inadvertently marked it.”
As with the big federal communication centers, the coalition looks to analyze disparate information from voters and poll workers on the ground to ensure that everyone is able to vote. “We always are looking for patterns—that’s what the command center is looking for—to see if there’s a systemic problem that needs to be escalated,” Schneider says. If the poll workers can’t help resolve the issue, the Election Protection coalition will call on county officials for a remedy.