Could the Election be Hacked? In a Word: Yes.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Americans are in an ongoing, addictive and sometimes dangerous relationship with technology. Stewart Baker of the Aspen Institute says, “We’ve made the wrong choice. We’ve fallen in love with technology, we’ve bought a bunch of computerized voting machines, so we don’t have hanging chads anymore, but we have a bigger risk.”
That risk: election hacking, by intercepting ballots, duping voting machines, targeting a state with no paper trail (like South Carolina), or even just saying the election was hacked – even if it wasn’t.
All of it takes American politics out of the hands of Americans, and put it into the hands of adversaries. Baker says, “We would like our elections decided by Americans. Not by Vladimir Putin or (anyone else).”
Baker is the former Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security. He, and 31 other members of the Aspen Institute’s bipartisan Homeland Security Group, issued a warning in the wake of the Democratic National Committee email hack this summer.
They said, in part, “election officials at every level of government should take this lesson to heart: our electoral process could be a target for reckless foreign governments and terrorist groups.”
“It’s a very legitimate concern,” says Fortalice CEO and Founder Theresa Payton. Her Charlotte-based tech security company kept the Republican National Convention hack-free this summer. Her approach to cyber security is, “If it can be updated and upgraded, it can be hacked.”
Payton, like the Aspen Institute, says federal election cycles should get the same security other critical infrastructure like banks, energy or transportation do. She says, “And it’s not just the hacking and stealing of data. In some cases, it could be worse. It could be manipulating data, it could be changing data and leaving it exactly where it was.”
We checked with the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. Kristin Mavromatis is the public information manager. She says, “We will not do anything different because we have always been diligent to ensure that your vote is counted as you cast it.”
She says Mecklenburg County’s Ivotronic voting machines are not networked and not connected to the internet. She also says the machines are tested for weeks before and after an election to check for inconsistencies. And while South Carolina machines don’t, North Carolina voting machines do include paper trails for auditing.
Mavromatis says, “For others it has been found helpful. I personally don’t believe it is needed.”
She, Payton and Baker do agree on what you should do if you suspect anything is off with your voting machine. Baker says, “This is something I’ve started to do. Look very carefully at every stage of the processing of your vote. Don’t assume that because you’re clicking off the boxes that you want and hit vote that everything has been done right.”
If not, Payton says, “I would call over one of the precinct judges, immediately.”
And until you get help, Mavromatis says, “Do not cast your ballot. Once your ballot is cast, it is no different if you vote on paper and put it in the box, you’re done and I cannot do anything for you.”