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(Photo credit: Justin Grimes/Flickr)

Protecting privacy and encouraging openness is a balancing act, especially when it comes to voter data. Last year, we looked at ways that different kinds of election data could be made more open. Earlier this year, we described the way that this openness must be limited to appropriately protect individual privacy. Given this week’s news implicating the Russian government in hacking Arizona and Illinois voter registration databases, we have another aspect of election data management to consider: its security.

2006 Nike Air Zoom DUNKESTO DUNK PRESTO WHITE ATLANTIC blueE SILVER DS NEW Sz 9,. Voting lists have historically been open, in some way, to the public. Their openness is intended to help ensure a fair and accurate voting process. Given that history, why would access to this list – even by non-Americans – pose a problem?

Simply put, a new requirement to digitize all voter list activity, plus inadequate funding, has created the possibility of coordinated attacks where this possibility never existed before. We have created a new risk by increasing the digitization of the voting process over the last fifteen years without adequate investments in the system’s security. In the past, we haven’t worried about coordinated electronic attacks on voter registration data because our national voter registration system was neither coordinated nor fully digitized. Now that it is, we need to consider the new risks, and new expenses, more seriously.

Coordination is new for American voter registration because it was never previously mandated. Election administration is among the government powers which were not constitutionally assigned to the federal government and are therefore “reserved to the states.” America’s voting processes are overseen by the 50 states, operationally run by local governments and function with relatively minor federal oversight or assistance. As a result, these processes vary widely. Everything from how people vote (by mail, in person or online) to when they vote (for a varying period of days or weeks, or only on election day) and even how the results are tabulated is something that is determined by state and local officials.  

That began to change in 2002. After a presidential election in which Florida’s tabulation of a few hundred votes determined the U.S. presidency, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which provided a one-time infusion of cash and requirement for electoral administration digitization. Unfortunately, that funding that was never followed up with additional financial support nor direction.

HAVA incorporated a number of different provisions which responded principally to the issues raised in the 2000 election – namely, the difficulty of rapidly and accurately processing paper ballots and the fear of individual-level voter fraud – creating a wave of new requirements for state election administration.8920-29161 shoes Brogue women V 1969 Italia B1670 CERVO TAUPE grey Talpa 36 I,.

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HAVA’s largest effect was to dramatically speed up the digitization of American elections. Between 2003 and 2006, the EAC distributed nearly $3 billion to the states to improve their election technology, a massive amount in the context of the perennially underfunded world of elections administration.

Before HAVA, more than half of American voters voted using entirely nondigital processes — either paper ballots, punch ballots or lever machines. By 2013, nearly all Americans voted using either optical scan machines (which read bubbled-in paper ballots) or all-electronic machines.

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The risk of vote manipulation through attacks on voting machines and voting machine data has been the main point of focus for electoral security experts so far. However, the recent hack points to the fact that there are many points of weakness beyond the voting machine itself.

First, HAVA required that every state create a database of registered voters, “a single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list defined, maintained, and administered at the State level.8949-29267 shoes con lacci women V 1969 Italia C01 CAMOSCIO CUOIO Beige 37 IT -,.104810-1590 Fabulicious Clearly-418 Sandaletten Satin pink US-8 EUR 38,.

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Third, the EAC has also pointed out that the centralized, digital voter lists enable the creation of Adidas Originals GAZELLE WHITE PINK SUEDE SHOES SNEAKERS TRAINERS RETRO AQ0904, — digital versions of the list of registered voters which get marked off as people come to vote, giving an accurate number of voters and ensuring people cannot vote twice. Electronic poll books are currently in use in 32 states.ALEXANDER WANG KORI Truffle Suede Size 40 7,. We need tests of electronic poll book software to prove that this cannot be done.

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As a result of HAVA, voter registration databases have more power to create problems for individuals and the voting process than they did under the old, paper-based voter registration system. Problems that could stem from voter list hacking are slightly different than the ways that votes could be changed through hacking voting data. Voter registration databases could be held for ransom, as has been occurring with Adidas Ultra Boost Clima UK9 White Brand New, throughout the year.Adidas BB3458 Energy Boost Women Running shoes Sneakers White Mint,. Finally, connections to digital poll books potentially allow hackers to falsely identify individuals as having already voted, preventing people from being able to cast their ballot.

If our voting systems are under attack, it’s frustrating to note that there had been some benefit to the old, entirely disaggregated system. Under a paper-based, disconnected model, there was no “single point of failure” for American elections. While the digitization of our electoral system has given us new efficiencies, it has unfortunately also given us new vulnerabilities. Just as private companies do, we’ll need to invest in securing the critical digital assets we’ve created.