Everyone wants secure elections.
What secure elections are, on the other hand, it is a matter of debate. Some would choose to focus on the act of voting itself. Are we certain that the choices made by an individual going into the voting booth accurately recorded and then accurately transmitted to election officials?
Others would choose to focus on who walks through the door on Election Day. Are we certain this person is who he or she says they are? Is this person a citizen, properly registered, and at the correct location?
In both cases, we are grappling with possibilities rather than long, documented history. We know that other countries have shown interest in penetrating our voting systems, but there is little evidence so far that they have done so. As to the people who vote, most cases flagged through voter ID laws seem to be people who are simply confused, rather than pursuing the ballot with nefarious intent.
Likewise, the definition of voting and election security has changed over time. Some two decades ago, in the embarrassing aftermath of the Florida recount, many states and localities jumped on the computerized voting machine train. Since then, it has become clear that the design of many such machines was imperfect. The machines didn’t leave a paper trail, and in many cases, they were operated by volunteers without adequate training.
We have since seen a wholesale move in the other direction. There is an understanding now that paper ballots, with bubbles and all, are the easiest and most secure voting method. But that means that localities, states and our federal government must all get on the same page.
We also have much better evidence that foreign actors, such as Russia, are interested in meddling with our election. That puts the onus on election officials, such as Secretary of State Scott Schwab, to make sure our voting databases are protected with the highest security possible.
It also means that we should be alert to other, softer forms of election interference, such as anonymous social media accounts. Hacking is not always required to influence an election, as we saw in 2016.
We do need secure elections. But we also should work together to agree on what a secure election even means.