Well-documented Russian meddling in U.S. elections demands keen concern for the protection of election integrity. This concern should rise to the level of immediate action in light of a new report verifying the lack of federal oversight of the private companies that make voting equipment.
The Brennan Center for Justice, which is based at New York University School of Law, reported that three companies provide more than 80% of the voting systems in the U.S., yet they lack meaningful oversight, leaving the electoral process vulnerable to attack.
A cyberattack against any of these companies could have deep consequences for elections across the country. Other systems that are essential for free and fair elections, such as voter registration databases and electronic pollbooks, are also supplied and serviced by private companies. Yet these vendors, unlike those in other sectors that the federal government has designated as critical infrastructure, receive little or no federal review, the Brennan Center found.
Oversight is needed. Federal standards must be set. Congress should establish a framework for certification of election vendors.
Currently, the federal Election Assistance Commission, which certifies voting equipment, makes the information available to states that ask for that information. It would be a logical next step for the EAC to ask vendors to provide details on cybersecurity practices and ownership information then to make that information available to all inquirers.
Pennsylvania has invested considerable dollars in an effort to maintain ballot integrity. The state used a $90 million bond issue to assist counties with the purchase of voting machines that produce a paper trail of ballots cast. Several counties used those machines last month in the municipal elections. While there was justifiable concern about the need for a verifiable paper trail of ballots, the lack of scrutiny of the companies producing the hardware and software is both ironic and troubling.
Voters have been told repeatedly that foreign meddling in U.S. elections is ongoing and pervasive. Creating official oversight of the companies providing voting equipment is the immediate and necessary action needed.
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