Letter: Preventing vote hacking from impacting an election


In the 2016 U.S. elections, voter registration systems were targeted in more than 21 states by Russian government hackers. Fortunately, there is no evidence that those attacks affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.  
In response, states have begun to examine voting system weaknesses and vulnerability to security breaches and attacks. In Delaware, under the leadership of State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove, the state acquired new universal voting systems that provide, among other features, verifiable paper-based records, audit logs and encrypted access. 

Adversaries will continue, nonetheless, to look for vulnerabilities. To be successful, a hacker does not need to change all the votes, but only a few votes in a few targeted counties. Following the 2016 election, The Cook Political Report concluded that the presidential election turned on roughly 78,000 votes from three counties in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. In 2000, the election between Vice President Gore and Gov. Bush was a virtual tie.

On election night, Gore was two electoral votes shy of the needed 270 when he lost New Hampshire in a close vote in which Bush gained 48 percent of the vote to Gore’s 47 percent, with 4 percent going to Ralph Nader. In the ensuing recount in Florida, Bush won the needed electoral votes by a mere 537 votes. 

The lesson, and concern, is that an outside adversary with detailed polling data, could select a few districts and change the outcome of the election. At the very least, this adversary would achieve its goal of shaking confidence in the election results.

To prevent the corruption of a presidential election, we need to increase the number of total votes counted to declare a presidential winner.

While changing a few votes might be possible, despite the states’ best efforts, fixing the national total is more difficult given that there are 9,000 jurisdictions with over 175,000 precincts. Compare the Cook Report’s estimate of a 78,000-vote difference with the national political vote in which the difference was approximately 2.8 million votes, or the 537 vote Florida difference with a popular vote difference of approximately a half million votes.  The proposed National Popular Vote Compact would prevent the hacking of the vote count in a few counties from changing the national outcome.

The NPVC is based on the states’ authority under the U.S. Constitution’s Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 to determine the manner of appointing electors. The compact would provide when states with 270 total electoral votes sign on, they would cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote; a vote that is harder to hack.  There are a host of reasons to support the National Popular Vote Compact, election integrity is one more. 

Jack Young
Rehoboth Beach



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