Security gaps similar to, but much less porous than, those in Georgia’s voter registration system have been identified in Washington state, potentially providing bad actors ways to foul citizens’ eligibility to cast ballots in last week’s elections, cyber experts say. And states such as North Carolina, which make their voter registration data widely available, could enable someone to change voters’ data by mail, they said. Officials in both Washington and North Carolina expressed confidence they would spot any widespread tampering with voter registration records. “Voters can rest assured that Washington’s election system is secure,” says the website of its secretary of state. However, the cyber experts said Washington appears to have failed to plug all the holes after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned last year that Russian cyber operatives had downloaded voter records from Illinois’ database in advance of the 2016 presidential election and attempted to do so in 20 other states. In “a small number of states,” the Russians “were in a position to” alter or delete voter registration information, the Senate Intelligence Committee said last May.
A National Academy of Sciences report on voting security earlier this year listed among its top recommendations the need for improved defenses to ensure the integrity of voter registration databases.
Illegally deleting or altering registration data could force a victimized voter to cast a provisional ballot. Whether the provisional ballot would count would hinge on a decision regarding the voter’s eligibility, as defined separately by each state.
In North Carolina, about 22,000 voters were offered provisional ballots this year, while the unofficial count in Georgia soared past 30,000. Washington officials did not provide this year’s total number of provisional ballots