By Andrew Zirkle | USA
With much talk surrounding the integrity of the US elections regarding influence, the 71Republic team decided to take that concept one step further to investigate what it would take for an outside party to change the vote totals in the US elections through fraud in a large and meaningful way. Although there may be others, there are 3 determined ways that widespread and coordinated fraudulent voting could occur in a Presidential election
The first and most suspected way to commit widespread voter fraud is to use or create incorrect voter registration data, which would allow voter duplication or unregistered voters to vote. One of the most difficult logistical challenges associated with this strategy is the decentralized nature of US Presidential Elections. Because each state is responsible for its own voter registration, a hacker would have to tamper with multiple voter registration lists in multiple key states before election day, all without being caught by digital safeguards, encryption, and of course, manual voter list evaluations. A variation on this strategy would be to use deceased registered voters or other errors as opposed to directly hacking voter registration data, however, it would be very difficult for an outside individual to observe such errors. Even if a group was able to edit or exploit voter registration data, the only way to take advantage would be to use the registrations to perform fraudulent votes. Some states would be harder than others, for example, fraud in Virginia and Wisconsin would also require forged ID for fraudulent votes to occur. Although laws vary, 32 states have some sort of voter ID law implemented which would further complicate this strategy. The word is still out on whether this type of hack affected the 2016 election. Recent Department of Homeland security reports indicated that Russians targeted the voter registration lists of 21 states, however, it was made clear that the hackers only succeeded in breaching one state’s system and that the targeted lists were not directly tied to election day tally.
The second way to potentially hack the US elections would be to hack into machines that count and record votes. Nearly 70% of voters use a paper ballot with an optical scanner, while nearly the rest of the country uses a Direct Recording Electronic Machine (DREM) which is all electronic and typically resembles a tablet. Before each election day, both types of voting machines are tested multiple times in front of representatives from both parties by local election authorities to ensure they are accurate. Then, the machines are securely locked away until election day. Neither type of machine connects to the internet, which means that any hacker would have to physically break open the machine in person and even then, the tallying alteration would likely be caught by the multiple tests before election day. Because of the sheer amount of machines and the type of coordinated effort between many hackers that would be required to have any sort of effect, most election analysts have ruled this potential hacking technique out completely because of its difficulty and the safeguards against it.
The third way to directly affect election totals would be to differentiate the reported results from the actual results that were tallied. While this method may not require traditional hacking, it still has been a concern for many who are skeptical about the results of the election. At the end of election day, each type of vote counting machine prints out individual copies of the ballots it received, which are then counted by poll workers. These poll workers work in pairs and are overseen by poll watchers from both parties not just to prevent sabotage, but also to prevent any mistakes as well. The tallied results from each precinct are then reported to the county board of elections, who then report them to the state board of elections, all through secure phone lines. If any attempted large-scale sabotage were attempted, it would likely be caught by the hundreds of election audits done by states or the occasional mandatory ballot recounts. The likelihood that large-scale conspiracy could occur under the reporting system is unlikely due to its highly monitored and decentralized nature, which is good news for the American election system.
Although overall there is room for some amount of voter fraud in the US Presidential election system, the opportunity for undetected widespread election fraud is very limited because of our secure, decentralized and highly monitored elections. Despite the separate and totally proven problem of outside election influence, Americans should rest easy knowing that their election system cannot be subject to large-scale sabotage by outside entities