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What the United States must do to secure the 2020 election

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A multifaceted and focused approach is needed to strengthen electoral security and protect democratic institutions in the run-up to the 2020 U.S. election, the researchers say.

Just over two months away from the 2020 election, intelligence officers in the United States have warned that Russia and other rivals are once again trying to undermine the country’s democracy.

But these electoral security concerns go far beyond protecting unsecured voting machines and questions about mail voting in the United States.

Based on an analysis of electoral reforms in Australia and countries of the European Union, the researchers outline steps to address the security of electoral infrastructure, such as requiring paper ballots and risk-limiting audits, as well as as deeper structural interventions to limit the spread of disinformation and fight against digital repression.

In the United States, despite post-2016 funding, still more than two-thirds of American countries report insufficient funding to replace paperless and vulnerable voting machines; More help is needed, says Scott Shackelford, associate professor of business law and ethics at the Kelley School at Indiana University, executive director of the Ostrom Workshop, and chair of the cybersecurity program.

No nation, no matter how powerful, nor any tech company, no matter what its ambitions, is able to protect democracies against all of the threats they face in 2020 and beyond. Only a multifaceted polycentric approach that makes the necessary changes from top to bottom of the stack will be up to the task.

For example, Australia, which has faced threats from China, has taken a distinct approach to protecting its democratic institutions, including reclassifying its political parties as critical infrastructure. This is a step the US government has yet to take despite repeated violations by Democratic and Republican National Committees.

In addition to appropriating sufficient funds to replace obsolete voting machines and tabulation systems, researchers say Congress should encourage states to refuse to fund voting machines with paperless ballots. The researchers also suggest requiring risk-limiting audits, which use statistical samples of paper ballots to verify official election results.

Other suggested steps include:

Congress calling on the National Institute of Standards and Technology to update the standards of its voting machines, which state and county election officials rely on when deciding which machines to buy Australia has taken such a measured. Create a National Cybersecurity Safety Board to investigate cyber attacks on the US electoral infrastructure and publish post-election reports to ensure vulnerabilities are addressed. Work with universities to develop training for election officials nationwide to prepare them for a range of possible scenarios, and create a cybersecurity guide for use by newly elected and appointed election officials.

Regarding disinformation in particular, the US government could work with the EU to globalize the self-regulatory code of practice on disinformation for social media companies and so [avoid] The thorny First Amendment concerns, says Anjanette Angie Raymond, associate professor of business law and ethics.

It could also help create new forums for international information sharing and more effective early warning and joint sanctions regimes, Raymond says.

The international community has the tools to act and empower those who threaten democratic institutions, says Abbey Stemler, assistant professor of business law and ethics, also associate professor at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University .

In the absence of political will to act, pressure from consumer groups and civil society will continue to mount on tech companies, especially Facebook, which may be enough for them to voluntarily expand their efforts in the industry. EU globally, just as more and more companies are starting. to comply with its General Data Protection Regulation worldwide, instead of designing new information systems for each jurisdiction.

The article has been accepted for publication in the Washington and Lee Law Review. Other co-authors come from Penn State and Indiana University.

This article originally appeared in Futurity. It was republished under the Attribution 4.0 International license.

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