Critical Infrastructure Security, Critical Infrastructure Security

Why is election security a partisan issue?

Frankly I never thought that securing the elections would be a partisan issue.  But then, why am I surprised?  Anything that touches Washington becomes a partisan issue.  Securing the elections, ensuring ballot machines can't be hacked, and ensuring voter registration data isn't altered or deleted should be a common goal for everyone in Washington.   

Elections are the core of a democracy; if we lose faith in that process, our very existence as a democratic country is in jeopardy.  And yet, politicians find ways to spar also on these issues.  The GOP wants to just send money to the states and allow them to do what they choose, as long as they generically "secure the infrastructure."  I guess they forget that we have 50 states and this approach would likely lead to 50 different approaches, an enormous waste of money and resources, and poor results across the board.  

It is clear that I prefer the Democrats' approach.  States need to be told what to do, i.e. they need to be held to a certain level of security standards; and this is achieved by setting clear policies and precise requirements.  

What is wrong with imposing well defined security standards for the vendors of election equipment?  I would think we'd all agree on this?  And yet, apparently someone doesn't like that idea.  Could it be that lobbying is at work here?  My hunch is that it is.  Otherwise, for what other reason would anyone say that the vendors of electoral equipment don't need to be held to specific minimum requirements?  I'm not always in favor of the central government dictating rules, overreaching.  But this is a case where, in my opinion, there should be zero doubt.  All states must be held accountable the same way, to meet the same minimum requirements, and you can do this solely (and only) if you impose procedures and policies that are the same for everybody.

Uniformed, across the board. Grants for replacing the old infrastructure are a good idea too.  If I may be allowed to suggest things that, to me, should seem obvious - why do these machines need to be connected to the Internet?  Are they even connected?  I would assume that the polling station shouldn't even need an internet connection at all.  The machines could collect the votes; the results once the polls close should be downloaded to a central server, and from here, uploaded elsewhere.  We do this with the lotto every day.  Why is it so difficult to do it with the election hardware?  Isn't that more important than the lotto?  I'd likely to hope that it is.

I don't think I want to go into a litany of what should be done to protect this process.  To me, certain things are obvious, and I'm sure the NSA has plenty of brilliant people who can design proper protection for the entire process.  It is only a matter of resources.

One thing is very important: if there is any doubt that a station has been in any way compromised, that should immediately be reported.  That station should be isolated and checked, and closed if necessary.  If we want to use electronic voting, we need to be prepared for such occurrences and have procedures in place so that local officials can't hide their failures.  Accountability is always the key.  People pay more attention when they have something on the line.  Someone needs to be held accountable if something goes wrong.  Imposing minimum standards on the type of protection to be put in place is important as well.  We can't have a site protected by a simple firewall, one not protected and another set up with 3 IPSs.  If we can't afford proper protection then we can't afford electronic ballots.  It's as simple as that.

I like the idea of leaving a paper trail of every vote.  In my opinion, once I vote, that machine should print a piece of paper with everything I've voted, and I should put that paper into an urn.  So if there is any doubt that the machines may have been hacked, we simply do what we used to do before the dawn of the digital world - we count the ballots manually!   

After all, Europeans still vote manually, and no one has ever heard of hacking issues!  We used to do that here too.   Electronic voting allows for immediate release of the results, as soon as the polls close.  But if this instant availability of the results has to come with the doubt that the results may not even be legal because maybe, just maybe, they've been hacked, then I prefer the manual count.  Would you rather wait a day or two to know who won, and be assured that the result is safe, correct, legal, and can't be challenged?  Or would you rather know almost instantly, but always doubt whether it was real or Russia had anything to do with it?  

I'm not going to express an opinion on our current President.  At least not today and not in this piece.  

Whether one likes him or not, he's the President, and in a democratic country that means that we should all get behind him because we have democratically elected him.  We should be arguing about his policies, as is normal in a democratic nation.  But not about the legitimacy of his victory.  Instead, his entire tenure has been marred by allegations that he was practically elected by the Russians; that he's not really our President but a puppet of Russia.  That his presidency isn't legitimate and he should be removed.  That is not a good way to run a democracy.  That is a path to anarchy and revolution.  A path causing people to lose faith in the process, and which will trigger only two possible reactions - either they won't go to the polls, or they will take to the streets.  Neither option is good.  

Now imagine what would happen if, instead of a mere doubt about foreign mingling, we had an almost certainty that the polls were hacked and results were altered.  It'd be chaos.  We'd have to run the whole election process again, we'd be without a new president for months, we'd likely resort to manual ballots, and the economic crisis ensuing from this chaos would cause incalculable damage.  Need I continue?  This is not something we can risk.   We must be able to think of the election results as something definitive and that cannot even be questioned let alone disputed.  And the only way to do so is to leave a paper trail, which can be used in case of doubts.  And if that means I need to wait even a week to know who's my new President, so what?  As long as when everything is said and done, we all know that he or she won legitimately and will be able to govern for four years without his or her authority constantly being called into question.  

The survival of the nation is at stake here.  

We can't take this lightly and argue across political boundaries.  

We need to find the best way to control the process to ensure its legitimacy and dispel any doubt.  

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