Local official addresses election security concerns

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As midterm voter turnout reaches record highs, voter trust in elections may be at an all-time low. 

With a divisive and close U.S. Senate race being decided in Tennessee Tuesday, one local election official is reinforcing the integrity of digital election systems. 

“It’s more a fear of what could happen than what has actually happened but at the same time we as election officials take our job seriously,” Sullivan County Election Administrator Jason Booher said in an interview Monday. 

Security professionals say upgrades in voting technology have brought more instant election results. Yet they’ve also come with new risks. 

“With that, we’ve brought out different risks and vulnerabilities with these devices and so the problem with this is that ultimately voter confidence is going to be low if there is any kind of incident,” said Daniel Smith, head of security research at Radware.  

Booher insisted they’re prepared, especially following increases in staff training and security protocol catering to these concerns. 

“There’s this myth that somehow someone can hack a voting machine,” he said. “Those voting machines are secure. They have seals on them. They don’t leave the premises or the confines of the election office or election officials who have been sworn under oath.” 

Booher said the answer is not going back to paper ballots: “That paper is not as secure as that voting machine. It’s not possible. You can lock them up but it’s still a piece of paper. Paper can get wet, paper can burn.” 

But perhaps the biggest concern and the most frequent issue affecting the integrity of elections happens long before Election Day.

Booher said the deliberate spreading of misinformation, by foreign and local actors, is as big a threat to trust in the democratic process as any. 

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