AUBURN, Ala., Oct. 23, 2020
AUBURN, Ala., Oct. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Six Auburn University political science professors addressed public concern about everything from cybersecurity to potential wait times at polling locations less than two weeks ahead of Election Day during an hourlong webinar session on Friday.
Mitchell Brown, Kathleen Hale, Soren Jordan, Jon Fisk, Bridgett King and Ryan Williamson—all members of Auburn’s Election Administration Initiative, or EAI—joined Auburn Student Government Association Executive Vice President of Outreach Michael Bennett to offer their thoughts about the impending elections in a webinar titled “Voting in 2020: What to Expect.” The group discussed a variety of topics during the session, including polling location logistics, early voter turnout and post-election procedure, taking questions from a group of attendees that included media, Auburn students and faculty and the public.
One of the most pressing public concerns for this year’s elections involves cybersecurity, especially in the wake of recent reports that Iran and Russia hacked voter registration data to affect American elections at all levels. Brown, a professor in Auburn’s Department of Political Science and co-director of the EAI, put the reports in context.
“There has been some reporting that they hacked into voter registration databases, and I will say that’s not necessarily true,” Brown said. “Registration lists are public documents, so who votes, who they vote for and what party someone is affiliated with is a matter of public information. What is private is how we vote, and the system surrounding how we vote is very secure. So, I think we don’t want to get worried that the voter registration lists are somehow public as evidence of some bad actor hacking into the state systems, because those are already public.”
Hale—a political science professor and EAI co-director who is a Faculty Fellow of the McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security at Auburn—concurred with her colleague and lauded the nation’s improved cybersecurity programs for protecting the integrity of America’s election results, in particular since the last presidential election.
“If we go back four years and look at the conversations that were happening around the 2016 presidential election, the idea of penetrating voter registration systems was really at a fever pitch,” Hale said. “It’s worth pointing out to the audience that the federal government—through the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with state election directors, secretaries of state and local election offices—have made really significant strides in both the design and the implementation of cooperative sophisticated information sharing systems. I think every election expert out there agrees we are in a much different posture and what we see in these recent reports is really an indication that the system that is in place is working.”
King—the department’s Master of Public Administration program director and associate professor—said the nation’s potential shortage of poll workers that was much talked-about during the summer