Back to the future: Paper ballots still the best fraud prevention
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It’s hard to believe the moment we all learned the presidential election would be recounted in Wisconsin. Thank goodness Wisconsin has paper ballots that can be physically counted again.

Did you know that many of the voting machines in New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina produce a report of how the voting machines recorded the votes but there is no paper trail to allow you to count the ballots again if needed. 

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The same is true for key counties in Pennsylvania, a consistent battleground state that uses the same system in the majority of its counties, and that is true for other states as well.

Today, there are entire countries totally relying on electronic voting: Brazil, since 2000, has employed electronic voting machines and, in 2010, had 135 million electronic voters. India had 380 million electronic voters, for its Parliament election in 2004.

It is easy to see why electronic voting is the wave of the future and how the United States could model its own voting system after these countries. It’s faster, cheaper and more accessible for those with disabilities.

Also, would you miss the experience of or the reporting of the every-election-day headline of “Long lines at the polls today?” Probably not. That is certainly less painful than a recount though.

Despite this risk, we are headed towards electronic voting as the sole system we use despite the fact:

·      Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails with the intention to “interfere with the U.S. election process” according to the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., and the Department of Homeland Security.

·      Illinois’ and Arizona’s voter registration databases were hacked.

·      All 50 states asked for help from the Department of Homeland Security to secure their voting data and rightly so, as many states have not been able to invest in the infrastructure to protect it.

·      Scams such as “text your vote” were more prevalent than ever, and will increase as electronic voting becomes more widespread.

The good news is our government took this very seriously. Prior to the election, the Department of Homeland Security offered state election officials, "cyber hygiene scans" to remotely search for vulnerabilities in election systems. They also released a memo of “best practices” — guidance how best to secure their voter databases.

Also, we have to remember elections are decentralized. Each state in our country, plus the District of Columbia, run their own election operations, including voter databases. A hostile nation state could not feasibly wipe out each system with one wave of their magic wand.

How we vote though is just one-way our elections, could be compromised. Another concern going forward must be disruption of internet traffic, as we saw occurred just days before the election on October 21st when the Marai botnet crippled part of the internet for hours.

A massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacked a host server causing major disruptions to some of the most highly visited web sites in the United States. The attack was in two waves, first on the East Coast and then on the West Coast.

As our country votes on Election Day in different time zones, and polling stations close at different times, the similarity is chilling.

What we know is the warning signs are there. As we move towards the future, and focus on creating and protecting a new system to collect our votes, we need to protect the one we already have.

Two things you can be sure of after this year’s election: eventually, every vote you cast in an United States election will be electronic and one of those elections will be hacked. No doubt about it.

But the recount in Wisconsin reminds us all why we need a back-up.

Theresa Payton is a former White House chief information officer, and is the CEO of Fortalice Solutions.


 

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