For the first time in our history, Americans now have to consider elections as a national security target.
While it’s well known that the Russian government has interfered in American elections to polarize and confuse voters since 2014, other countries — Iran, China, North Korea — are getting in on the game.
As the world’s premier power, its greatest democratic republic and an example of freedom and self-government around the world, the U.S. can’t allow other countries to influence its choice of leaders. Our elections must remain in American hands.
Luckily, there are methods and policies that can be adopted to ensure more safe and secure elections. One improvement that should be implemented is automated voter registration — a modernized database that can better keep track of eligible voters.
The logic behind the idea is simple.
Local and state governments run elections. These same governments already interact with citizens and collect their information — usually when issuing drivers’ licenses and other forms of ID. The state or local government can then use that information — name, address, birthday — to automatically enroll new voters.
The benefits of such a system are significant.
Automated voter registration would automatically update voter information when necessary, including when someone turns 18, moves to a new area or for a number of other reasons that would impact voter eligibility. This prevents people from registering in multiple districts, which protects against voter fraud and potential election interference.
In addition, automated voter registration also would clean and maintain the voter rolls faster and more efficiently than government employees performing the same task by hand, improving the reliability of the election system and saving taxpayer money at the same time. Election officers previously bogged down in error-prone, manual data input between government databases could be reassigned to work on election security, fending off foreign hackers and other threats seeking to deprive Americans of their votes.
An asset American elections already have in the face of foreign interference and hacking is federalism. There is no central election authority. Instead, there are 50 state election authorities and thousands of local election officers and boards, making the task of hacking an election overwhelmingly complicated and difficult. Automated voter registration takes advantage of this built-in defense while also cleaning up some of the redundancies and human errors that leave individual elections vulnerable.
This security strategy is already quite popular. Nineteen states, including Illinois, plus the District of Columbia have adopted automated voter registration. And the more states that opt in to the program, the more effective the system becomes because a larger database of voter information can be shared.
While automated voter registration is not a silver bullet solution to shield America from electoral manipulation, it is a good first step Iowa and Wisconsin can take to improve the credibility of elections.
Throughout our history, Americans have adapted to new threats against our homes and our Constitution. After we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, we forged new relationships that would trade peacefully with us. After 9/11, we secured airports and airplanes against terrorist attacks. The new threat isn’t targeting our military or our economy, but our very form of government and liberty itself.
Once again, it’s time to adapt.