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“It’s not a question of if you’re going to get hacked—it’s when you’re going to get hacked.”
Those were the words of Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam as he sought to assure investors last week that the company is still interested in purchasing Yahoo despite the massive data breach of Yahoo consumer accounts.
Whether McAdam’s words ring true for the hodgepodge of election systems across the US is anybody’s guess.
But in the wake of the Obama administration’s announcement that the Russian government directed hacks on the Democratic National Committee and other institutions to influence US elections, a senator from Oregon says the nation should conduct its elections like his home state does: all-mail voting.
In an e-mail, Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, told Ars:
We should not underestimate how dangerous… attacks on election systems could be.
If a foreign state were to eliminate registration records for a particular group of Americans immediately before an election, they could very likely disenfranchise those Americans and swing the results of an election. Recent efforts by some states to make it more difficult to vote only serves to increase the danger of such attacks.
This is why I have proposed taking Oregon’s unique vote-by-mail system nationwide to protect our democratic process against foreign and domestic attacks.
The only states to hold all elections entirely by mail are Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More than a dozen others have various provisions for mail voting.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has a breakdown here on how Americans cast their votes across the union.
Whether fears of elections being influenced by hackers are overblown, many states and local governments aren’t taking any chances ahead of the November 8 elections.
As of Monday, at least 33 states and 11 local election agencies have reached out to the Department of Homeland Security to help them secure their voting systems.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson “encouraged other election agencies to do the same,” saying:
Our services include cyber hygiene scans on Internet-facing systems, as well as risk and vulnerability assessments. We can conduct cyber hygiene scans remotely and provide state and local election officials with a report identifying vulnerabilities and recommendations to improve online voter registration systems, election night reporting systems, and other Internet-connected election systems.
Wyden co-sponsored the Vote By Mail Act in July, and he did so for reasons at the time that were unconnected to cybersecurity.
Instead, the measure was originally proposed to help minorities and others cast ballots.
“Too many states are making working Americans, people of color, young people and those with disabilities go to absurd lengths just to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” Wyden said at the time. “When fewer Americans vote, the special interests and big businesses win and everyone else loses.
Government can never truly represent the American people if citizens don’t have the opportunity to have their voices heard at the ballot box.”
The plan requires the US Postal Service to deliver ballots to all registered voters.
Voters could also register to vote when applying for driver’s licenses, too.
The measure fell on deaf ears this year and didn’t even get a committee vote.
A Wyden spokesperson said the proposal will have a “better chance” next year if Democrats win a majority of Senate seats.