While election violations, voter fraud, and uproar about election integrity have recently come into focus for many Americans in 2020, a group of more than 50 election and computer security experts wrote a letter on Monday featured by the New York Times asserting there is “no credible evidence of computer fraud in the 2020 election outcome.”
“Anyone asserting that a U.S. election was ‘rigged’ is making an extraordinary claim, one that must be supported by persuasive and verifiable evidence,” the experts wrote in the 2020 statement.
Many of these same experts, however, wrote another letter less than four years ago claiming that U.S. elections were vulnerable to exactly such weaknesses and encouraging improved security to avoid hacks, errors, and fraud.
“While there has been encouraging progress to improve election security in recent years, too many polling stations across the nation are still equipped with electronic machines that do not produce voter-verified paper ballots,” the letter from 2017 states. “Many jurisdictions are also inadequately prepared to deal with rising cybersecurity risks.”
Despite the fact that there are multiple cases of technical errors across the United States including a race in Oakland County where a computer glitch caused a Democrat candidate to be wrongfully declared the winner, the election security elites claim that “no credible evidence has been put forth that supports a conclusion that the 2020 election outcome in any state has been altered through technical compromise.”
“The presence of security weaknesses in election infrastructure does not by itself tell us that any election has actually been compromised,” the letter reads. “Technical, physical, and procedural safeguards complicate the task of maliciously exploiting election systems, as does monitoring of likely adversaries by law enforcement and the intelligence community. Altering an election outcome involves more than simply the existence of a technical vulnerability.”
Signatories of both letters include Andrew Appel, a computer science professor at Princeton University; Arlene Ash, a biostatistics professor at the University of Massachusetts; Steven Bellovin, a computer science professor at Columbia University; Matt Blaze, a computer science department chairman at Georgetown University; Duncan Buell, a professor of computer science at the University of South Carolina; Stephen Checkoway, a computer science professor at Oberlin College.
While the security experts, who range in employment from higher education to private companies, claim that none of the “technical vulnerabilities have actually been exploited to alter the outcome of any US election,” more than half of the signatories signed a letter to Congress in June 2017 urging senators and representatives to take action to “minimize election security risks” and sounding the alarm to preserve voter integrity by addressing problems with electronic machines at U.S. polling stations.
The bipartisan signatories claimed that concerted correction of these vulnerabilities was necessary to preserve the integrity of American elections.
“We represent both major political parties, independents, and a range of academic institutions and private sector organizations, but we are united in our belief that the United States, the world’s oldest representative democracy, needs prompt action to ensure prudent elections security standards,” the 2017 letter says.
In that letter, the experts call on Congress and states to implement multiple recommendations that address potential vulnerabilities in U.S. election processes. These include audits, using paper ballots, and improving cyber security of elections systems.
“We are writing to you as members of the computer science and cybersecurity communities, together with statisticians and election auditing experts, to convey our concern about these and other vulnerabilities in our voting system and to urge you to take the following simple, straightforward, and cost-effective actions to set meaningful standards to protect American elections,” the letter states.
“This is not an exhaustive list of recommendations,” the letter notes. “However, the above items can form the basis of robust, enforceable, sensible federal standards that can restore needed confidence in American elections.”
First, they suggested that Congress “establish voter-verified paper ballots as the official record of voter intent” in exchange for the current paperless technologies employed by certain voting machines.
Next, the experts suggested the U.S. take preventative action against cyberattacks by creating securely layered internet platforms with firewalls on “all voter registration, vote-tabulating machines, ballot delivery, and election management systems.” The experts also recommended that election officials coordinate with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, keep machinery and voting software up to date, and discourage the use of electronic ballot submissions.
Lastly, the experts advocate for “robust statistical post-election audits before certification of final results in federal elections,” relying on the knowledge and assistance of technical experts to help complete them. This process and its results, the 2017 letter states, should be publicized.