This article was posted originally at The Hill on October 20, 2016.
I serve as President of Verified Voting, a voting security organization that seeks to strengthen democracy by working to ensure that on Election Day, Americans have confidence that their votes will be counted as we intended to cast them. Election officials, security experts and advocates have been working together around the country toward that goal, at a level that also is unprecedented.
Elections are administered by local officials. America doesn’t have one monolithic national voting system the way there is in other countries. We have thousands of them, operating under state and local supervision.
In recent years, the way in which America votes has trended toward increasingly reliable and verifiable methods. More than 75 percent of Americans will vote this election on paper ballots or on voting machines with voter verifiable paper trails. That’s more than in past elections, including 2012 and 2014. (You can check out how your local area votes on our map of voting systems.) That means more voters than ever will be voting on recountable, auditable systems.
Why is that important? Because it offers officials a way to demonstrate to the loser of an election and the public that yes, they really did get fewer votes than their opponent or opponents.This is a nonpartisan issue. If you lose an election because something went wrong with a voting system somewhere, that’s fundamentally unfair. The more checks and balances we have in place (such as paper backup trails and audits), the greater our ability to withstand tampering or just general malfunction.
That’s not to say that our systems have no vulnerabilities. We have a higher degree of reliability in our election systems than in the past, but there’s still work to be done. What’s notable is that more is being done to ensure security this year than ever before.
Every jurisdiction does pre-election testing of their voting systems that is open to the public. Every jurisdiction conducts reconciliation procedures to ensure that the number of voters who signed in to vote squares with the number of votes tallied.
In addition, in light of recent cyber threats and reports, election jurisdictions are taking additional steps to secure voting systems. The Department of Homeland Security is assisting 33 states or more as well as some county level jurisdictions with essential cyber risk assessments, vulnerability scans and similar practices. That’s never happened before.
Earlier this year, Illinois and Arizona reported breaches in their voter registration databases. Since then, other states experienced attempts on their systems (but there are no further reported breaches). On the recent deadline day for online voter registration for Virginia, the state experienced malfunctions in the system that caused slowdowns and hindered voters’ ability to get registered. Advocates have called for additional time to be added so would-be voters can be accommodated.
We are strongly recommending all voters check their registration to confirm they are in the database and that their information is correct. They should do this to ensure they don’t have problems on Election Day. If there are any issues, they should immediately contact their election officials.We also urge all 50 states to seek additional support in improving their systems’ security posture from DHS or professional cyber security teams. Finally, voters can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, the Election Protection hotline, for help if they experience any issues or problems when voting.
Trump has supplied no evidence our voting systems are “rigged”—and to make such a claim in advance of most polls even opening is corrosive to our democratic system and the peaceful transference of power that we have exercised for centuries.