The issue of voter fraud and rigged elections has emerged into prominence during the 2016 US presidential elections. On 7 October 2016, the Washington Post reported that the government of the United States of America had officially accused Russia of attempting to interfere in the elections through methods that included hacking the computers of political organisations such as the Democratic National Committee. Earlier, on 29 August, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had warned US election officials of such a possibility after it uncovered that hackers had targeted two state election databases in the recent weeks, and recommended that they increase computer security measures. The Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has frequently suggested during his campaign that the elections might be rigged—the nominee claimed that the media and the Democratic Party were colluding against him, and recently stated that he may not accept the election result. Though state officials have repeatedly denied any possibility of election fraud, the issue continues to be frequently discussed in the US election coverage.
On 20 October, Sagar, a web reporter at Vantage, The Caravan, spoke to Thomas Hicks, the chairman of the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an independent statutory body charged with providing assistance to states for conducting elections. Sagar met Hicks on the sidelines of a conference hosted by the Election Commission of India on voter education for inclusive participation, at the Taj Palace hotel in Delhi. Hicks discussed why it’s unlikely that the election could be rigged, and described the contingency plans the authorities had devised in case of cyber threats or local emergencies.
Sagar: In recent months, there have been reports of hacking of voter registration databases in at least two states. Could the United States elections be compromised as a result?
Thomas Hicks: No, the incidents that’ve been reported has been through databases. And there are no real indications that any information was altered or, they were basically copied. We at the EAC have issued guidelines to the states to ensure that they keep their databases secure.
S: Who could have stolen the databases? What kind of impact could it have on the outcome of the upcoming elections?