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Our aging voting infrastructure leaves the U.S. election system vulnerable to attack and causes long lines that keep some people from casting a ballot. The Brennan Center has proposed legislation to fund much-needed updates to our election infrastructure.

Defend Our Elections Defend Our Elections

Why It Matters

The 2016 Russian cyber­at­tacks exposed glar­ing vulner­ab­il­it­ies in U.S. voting systems. Hack­ers conduc­ted “research and recon­nais­sance” against elec­tion networks in all 50 states, breached at least one state regis­tra­tion data­base, attacked local elec­tion boards, and infec­ted the computers at a voting tech­no­logy company.

Most states’ elec­tronic voting and tabu­la­tion systems are at least a decade old, and many are no longer even manu­fac­tured. Elec­tion offi­cials report that they must go to eBay to find replace­ment parts, which in itself poses a secur­ity threat. Regis­tra­tion data­bases are simil­arly anti­quated, frequently running on unsup­por­ted soft­ware, which may not receive regu­lar secur­ity patches and may be more vulner­able to the latest meth­ods of cyber­at­tacks.

Those aren’t the only prob­lems. States around the coun­try use elec­tronic poll books that were not subject to inde­pend­ent secur­ity certi­fic­a­tion. And every elec­tion, poor ballot design and malfunc­tion­ing machines lead to confu­sion, long lines at the polls, and lost votes. These issues hit low-income and minor­ity voters hard­est.

The Bren­nan Center has outlined steps we can take to improve our elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion across the board, includ­ing repla­cing old voting machines, upgrad­ing voter regis­tra­tion data­bases, conduct­ing thor­ough audits of paper ballots, perform­ing regu­lar risk assess­ments, and fixing ballot design defects. And we’re support­ing a bipar­tisan bill in Congress that would give states the fund­ing they need to tackle these prob­lems. 

Solutions

Upgrade and Secure Voting Infra­struc­ture

Congress and the states should ensure that juris­dic­tions have funds to upgrade voting machines and regis­tra­tion data­bases, conduct regu­lar post-elec­tion audits, and under­take continu­ous threat assess­ments and remedi­ation. 

Read our Recom­mend­a­tions to Defend Amer­ica’s Elec­tion Infra­struc­ture.

Read more in our Demo­cracy solu­tions report.

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