Louisiana Secretary of State responds to poor election security grade

Published: Feb. 21, 2018 at 3:45 PM EST
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A recent report gives Louisiana a ‘D’ for election security, but the secretary of state said the system is secure.

Experts said hackers will try to meddle in American elections this year, what’s less clear, is whether they’ll succeed. “There are vulnerabilities in all 50 states,” said Danielle Root, the voting rights manager with the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Danielle Root recently graded election security in all 50 states. She and her co-authors gave out no ‘A’s, 11 ‘B’s, 23 ‘C’s, 12 ‘D’s, and five ‘F’s. Asked if that distribution suggested they should have used a curve, Root defended the grading. “The threat environment is too immediate and important to be giving out perfect scores willy-nilly,” she said.

Electronic voting was the biggest grade-killer, even if only a portion of the state used digital rather than paper ballots. Electronic voting can speed up the counting process, reduce staff costs, and make voting easier for disabled Americans. But, the reports’ authors see a vulnerability.

Root said without paper ballots – there’s no paper trail, making it impossible to verify a result. Therefore, a state couldn’t expect to pass the test if any of its voters use electronic voting machines rather than paper.

Of the seven categories the report graded, three dealt directly with the paper issue. “If you didn’t have paper ballots, you got a zero,” said Secretary of State Tom Schedler (R-Louisiana), “how can I possibly get a good score?”

Schedler dismissed his state’s ‘D’ grade as he met with election colleagues from around the country this weekend. He points out that he’s seen no evidence of an issue with a voting machine in his state.

He said it is technically possible to hack an electronic voting machine – but not realistically. Schedler said the state’s 10,000 machines are inaccessible; they’re tightly guarded, and unconnected to each other or the internet.

Schedler’s frustrated by recent media reports surrounding election security concerns. “I know how to run an election - and all my colleagues here, democrat and republican now how to do it,” he said, “but yet, we’re constantly defending a system against people who have had not one bit of experience in elections.”

Schedler is looking for bids to upgrade to e-voting machines that create a paper receipt after a digital ballot is cast. But an upgrade is expensive, and won’t be ready for this year’s elections if the plan moves forward.

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