Connecticut Is Serious About Keeping Election Secure

Oct 14, 2016

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been questioning whether the November 8 election will be fair.

WSHU’s Senior Reporter Ebong Udoma sat down with Morning Edition Host Tom Kuser to talk about how secure the nation’s voting system will be on Election Day.

Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Ebong, you talked with Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.  

Yes, I did. Merrill is president of the national association of secretaries of state. Most are in charge of elections in their states. Tom, as you know there is no federal election authority. The actual work is done by about 10,000 local jurisdictions. In Connecticut each town is its own jurisdiction, so we have 169. Here’s Merrill’s response to Trump and his supporters accusation that the polls would be rigged.

Merrill: Really what they are trying to do is sow doubt. And that is the most dangerous thing of all. I think that people will fail to have confidence that their vote is counted correctly. We’ve been doing elections for a long long time in this country. And I would think that it is safe to say that everyone takes it extremely seriously. I think it probably is the least likely thing to be rigged because I can’t even imagine how you could do that.

Why would it be difficult to do? Is it because there is no centralized computer system handling the election?

That’s correct. Here’s Merrill.

Merrill: Although there are 10,000 jurisdictions, we do the best we can to make sure everyone is following the exact laws. Every state is a little different, too. They are using certified equipment by the Elections Assistance Commission, which is the national commission that certifies equipment.  I think all efforts are there, and quite frankly I think this has been something good in the sense that we going to double down on our efforts to make sure that things are secure.

What about accusations that the Russian government is trying to meddle in the U.S. election. Just recently the Obama Administration alleged that the Kremlin is coordinating hacks into the computer systems of the Democratic National Convention and other U.S. institutions?

Yes, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has briefed Merrill about this. Here’s what she told me about the briefing.

Merrill: We were notified by DHS that there had been some attempts by an outside group, they didn’t know at the time, to access voter registration databases throughout the country. So there were two states that they actually got into…

Ebong:...and which states were those?...

Arizona and Illinois. And to date that’s the only thing that has actually happened. There is no further actual evidence of deliberate tampering even with the voter registration database.

So, Ebong, would you say Merrill is confident about the integrity of the November 8th election?

That would be fair to say. But she still has some concerns.

Merrill: My biggest concern is that people will decide that maybe this is such an issue that my vote won’t bother to show up. You know this is the most difficult election I have had to prognosticate about. People are always asking me what do you think the turnout is going to be? I have no idea. This has been such a wild election, and the rhetoric has been so unbelievable. So we’ll see what happens. I’m hoping to avoid long lines. I think long lines are really a breach of your right to vote. And we’ve tried very hard  in Connecticut to make sure there are a lot of laws in place that say you cannot have long lines. And it can’t always be avoided but that to me is a big problem. And so I’m hoping we don’t have long lines. That’s my biggest fear to be honest.

So all we should be worried about is the possibility of long lines on Election Day, not that the system is rigged?

Yes, that’s what Merrill says.

Thank you, Ebong.

Thank you, Tom.