The last presidential election in 2016 seemed more contentious than usual. It looks like the next one could be even more divisive. After reports surfaced that hackers broke into the voter databases for two different counties in Florida, many people called for tighter security around voting machines. Def Con Voting Village, an annual hacker’s conference, recently released findings that suggest there may still be vulnerabilities in US voting machines. Though the Senate supported an amendment to for state funding of election security, some critics say it’s not enough. So the big question remains – in the 2020 election, will our voting machines get hacked? Or is the question not one of “if”, but “when” and “how”?
Hacking an election
The Voting Village conference had 35,000 attendees and took place back in August in Las Vegas. It acquired voting machines from various places all over the country. Many of them were purchased online through eBay. Participants who attempted to hack into the machines said that some of them could easily be accessed through online channels. Even one of them had a hidden ethernet cable, meaning it could be connected to the internet.
Organizers of the Voting Village say that using paper ballots as a double-check is one of the best ways to prevent election fraud. They also advocate taking any measure to reduce the risk that the machines could be tampered with. Makers of these voting machines say that even if the cost of upgrading machines is taken care of, nothing may be able to protect us from an attack from outside the US.
So what do we do?
The Senate now supports an amendment that would pay states an additional $250 million to improve security before the election. However, Democrats in the House and Senate wanted $600 million. The amendment is a good start, according to critics, but they caution it may not be enough. Some of the voting machines have problems that have existed for 10 years without being fixed.
Private citizens may feel as though their hands are tied in this instance. We’ve always been told that when you want an issue in government to change, you need to vote for that change. So, how do you vote to change voting? That will require more action – calling your state and federal representatives is a good first step. If you get nervous on the phone, you can use social media – Twitter or Facebook come in handy here. Keep in mind that if you don’t believe we need more election security, you can voice that point of view as well. The most important thing is that we feel we can trust the results of Election 2020, hopefully without any voting machines being hacked.