Russians can't hack the US election, but they could warp it (Boston Globe)

Even the whiff of a threat is hardly welcome in the current political environment

KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 20, 2016) — Federal officials say that Russian hackers are behind breaches of voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois, and a breach at a contractor for the Florida elections office. In addition, "there have been attempted hacks in almost every state,'' said Denise Merrill, Connecticut's secretary of state and president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

It's conceivable such attacks could throw the Nov. 8 election into chaos. But it's improbable. Hackers can't get into our voting machines and outright change results.

The hackers can, however, mess with voter registration rolls, possibly affecting who can vote on Election Day. That would definitely sow confusion, but again, specialists and elections officials insist that there are enough safeguards and backups to protect the integrity
of the vote.

Nonetheless, even the whiff of a threat is hardly welcome in the current political environment. For days now, Donald Trump has been whipping up public outrage with claims that the US election is "rigged.'' Evidence of Russian attacks on our voting system would
reinforce that narrative and could further embitter an already vitriolic presidential race. ...

Merle King, executive director of the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, is in the camp of those who think it's highly improbable hackers will disrupt the election. But, as King warns, they might not have to, as the mere suspicion of electoral
hacking has further poisoned an already toxic political climate.

"It's a pretty high risk that after the election we're going to be dealing with the fallout,'' King said. "I think it is starting to combine with other factors to erode confidence in the outcome of the election.''

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