Arizona and other states are preparing for more elections next year following the off-year round in 2018. The next general election, however, will include a vote for president, the first following 2016, when Donald Trump won a shocking victory and foreign hacking attempts played a major part in a controversy that has dogged the president ever since.
Foreign efforts to tamper with elections actually aren’t new, and they apparently haven’t had much effect. They are, however, detestable and should be dealt with harshly.
Arizona’s Secretary of State’s Office oversees elections along with all the county governments, including Pinal’s. The state office is writing a new manual for the counties, its first since 2014. That is a good thing, because five years is a long time in terms of technology’s development.
According to The Arizona Republic, experts have taken issue with some items in the first draft of the document. One is the position that USB sticks used to transfer files can be re-used after being reformatted. Experts said the chance for infection with malware is too great and the sticks should always be new. Another suggestion was making encryption for voter lists and other items mandatory, not optional. Tougher standards on passwords also were recommended.
However, the draft includes rules against connecting voting systems to the internet or any external network. That received praise from the experts, the Republic said.
Unfortunately, these precautions are not a waste of time. Two years ago the Secretary of State’s Office said the Russian government had tried unsuccessfully to hack into the state system before the last presidential election. In 2016 the FBI notified Arizona of an attempted breach of the voter registration system.
Modern technology should not be allowed to corrupt a system of free elections that has existed for well over 200 years, especially by representatives of dictatorships. Election fraud has not been a major issue, at least not for a long time. But the possibility deserves the utmost diligence from all levels of government. These attacks often originate on foreign soil, and the governments involved should be punished. And if anyone involved is taken into custody, that person should become a long-term resident of a federal prison.