Don’t be surprised by mischief on Election Day. That’s the advice experts give about last-minute text messages, robocalls or emails purporting to instruct people (falsely) on where or when to vote. Bogus text messages have already popped up in Florida, one of many states afflicted by attempts to skew the vote in the run-up to Tuesday’s midterm elections. Early voting has been fraught with problems, including an investigation into alleged hacking of Georgia voter registration systems on Sunday and court battles in the state over who should be allowed on voter rolls, and snafus with antiquated voting machines in Texas. In Kansas, a federal judge upheld Dodge City’s decision to move the only polling place to what one resident called “the middle of nowhere” outside of town. There are tougher ID rules for voters in North Carolina and Kansas, passed by Republican office-holders who want to keep their majorities.. In North Dakota, where officials require a residential address in order to vote, thousands of Native Americans faced a scramble to obtain new state-issued or tribal IDs with street addresses, rather than P.O. boxes, even though their homes often lack numbers and their streets lack names.
Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and 16 other states saw their voter databases turn up for sale last month on the Dark Web, the murky underground internet. Combined, the databases contain names, genders, voter IDs, addresses, citizenship status and phone numbers for 81.5 million U.S. citizens.
All U.S. elections face a level of misbehavior. But the nation is on edge, given the Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election, followed by President Trump’s false claims of massive voter fraud, which prompted some states to crack down with tough identification laws and concentrated polling places.
Digital weapons amplify the fear.
“People are more attuned to and worried about election security,” said John Fortier, director of the Democracy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank that promotes bipartisanship.