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.