America needs a national standard for voting and voter rolls

Frank Wu writes, "Brianna Wu (US Congressional candidate in MA-8 and cybersecurity expert) has a brand new article in The Boston Globe about election security. People think electronic voting machines are the biggest problem. They're wrong. The electronic VOTER ROLLS are the largest attack surface for hackers. 2% of all ballots cast (enough to sway many elections) are provisional and that number is growing."

So, how are our voter rolls compromised? The movies might have you believe that it’s shadowy hackers writing custom malware to target high-level officials, but the truth is often a lot simpler. It’s the same way everything else is hacked: phishing schemes, recycled passwords, and unsuspecting election workers clicking on attachments that end up being malware. These concerns are far from theoretical. In 2016, election workers in San Mateo fell for spear-phishing attacks and had their email systems, as well as the website publishing voter eligibility and poll locations, compromised.

With the 2002 Help America Vote Act, congress allocated $3.8 billion to strengthen our election systems. While this might sound like a generous amount of funding, consider that we spent over $100 billion preparing for Y2K, a far less complex technical problem. According to a 2019 report commissioned by Homeland Security, this funding “was not enough to have a significant impact.” In September, Congress allocated a mere $250 million dollars for election security.

All of this is a strong argument for federal investment in a national electronic voter registration system. We can’t feasibly secure every machine in every office for 56 separate systems across our country, but we can build a world-class database with top-of-the-line security. The argument isn’t just that it’s more modern and more secure—it would be drastically less expensive to fund and maintain. Training would be universal for election workers, and security could be handled by teams of dedicated specialists.

The solutions to securing the US electoral system already exist [Brianna Wu/Boston Globe]

(Image: Francisco Diez, CC BY, modified)