Opinion: Election security paramount to democracy

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At Big Ag Watch, blogging about the interrelationships between our nation’s largest agricultural companies, the administrative and legislative branches of the federal government, the courts, agricultural advocacy groups and producers is a core mission.

Especially as those relationships inform our understanding of agricultural policy and law.

Make no mistake about it.  It is our elected government officials, and if necessary the courts, that ultimately determine how our nation grows and distributes food.

Let’s say it again.

It is our fairly duly elected representatives and senators that make ag policy.

But we now know that the Russians were responsible for an interference campaign in the 2016 elections.

And with the midterm elections just around the corner, the unvarnished truth is the nation as whole is still unprepared for a full scale Russian cyber-attack on the vote. Primaries have already begun.

The sad thing is securing our democratic process isn’t rocket science.  By and large, election experts know how to get this done.

But sadly it’s the will (or lack thereof) of elected legislators that form the biggest roadblock.

Without the complete and unerring belief that our elections speak the will of the people democracy suffers.

And democracy is suffering because in many states election results cannot be verified.  

Right now five states –  Delaware, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and New Jersey – use digital voting machines without paper backup.  

Another nine states have voting precincts that don’t have any type of paper ballot or backup.  

Thirty-three states have antiquated voting machines.

Since the last federal election, only Virgina has moved to replace all of its paperless voting machines.

The inability to prove election results is corrosive.

Last month’s omnibus spending bill set aside more than $300 millionfor states to upgrade the nation’s election infrastructure.

Those dollars will help – if they are spent wisely and not frittered away.

And there are a couple of bi-partisan bill kicking around Congress – most notably the Secure Election Act – that could provide additional dollars for state election security initiatives.

A second key component is to require states to conduct election system integrity audits to safeguard election results.

Congress come lately is now just getting around to holding hearings on election security.  

A takeaway from Senate Intelligence hearings in March is the lack of cooperation between the federal Homeland Security Office and state governments

What’s clear is that our nation’s election security is a mishmash.  

Much of the problem can be laid at the feat of a decentralized election system; there are more than 8,000 precincts in the U.S.  

But more to the point …unfortunately up to now there simply hasn’t been the national urgency to ensure we’ve done everything humanly possible to secure the integrity of our elections.

It’s too late for 2018.  Need it be too late for 2020?

About Dave Dickey

Dave Dickey

Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Big Ag Watch covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at dave.dickey@investigatemidwest.org.

This column reflects the writer’s own opinions and not those of Big Ag Watch.

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