Poll Shows Americans Fear Foreign Meddling in Midterm

(CN) – Just eight days before the closely watched midterm election, the Pew Research Center reported Monday that a majority of Americans worry voting systems are not secure from hacking and foreign influences, despite an overall positive outlook on the election process.

People walk into the George L. Allen, Sr. Courts Building in Dallas on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Early voting starts Oct. 22 and ends Nov. 2. (Irwin Thompson/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

In a survey of more than 10,600 adults between Sept. 24 and Oct. 7, 55 percent of respondents overall said that they were not too or not at all confident that “election systems are secure from hacking and other technological threats.”

Additionally, a 67-percent majority said either Russia or other foreign governments will likely attempt to influence various races in the midterm election.

Though respondents indicated they were confident that their respective parties were committed to maintaining election security, most said that they were not confident in the opposing party’s commitment to ensuring votes are secure. Overall, a larger percentage of respondents felt that the Democratic Party was more committed to securing elections than the Republican Party (63 percent versus 55 percent, respectively).

Eighty-three percent of Republican respondents said their party was committed to securing election systems for the midterms, and 65 percent said the Democratic Party would not secure election systems.

Reciprocally, 81 percent of Democratic respondents felt that their party was committed to securing election systems, whereas 55 percent said the opposing party was not committed.

Voters could have cause for concern, as voting-related issues have arisen before and during early voting periods in a handful of states.

In this Oct. 22, 2018, file photo, Megan Heckel of Plano holds her daughter Lily as they wait in line for early voting outside Maribelle M. Davis Library in Plano, Texas. Some Texas voters are complaining that while casting Democratic or Republican straight-ticket ballots, voting machines used in 80-plus counties changed their selections to the other party for key races, including the Senate contest between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke. (AP Photo/David Koenig, File)

For example, some straight-ticket early voters in Texas experienced an error last week in which their votes were switched to the opposing Senate candidate or left blank. Eighty-two of Texas’ 254 counties use Hart eSlate systems to record the votes. However, complaints have only come from a handful of counties, including Harris County and Travis County – homes of Houston and Austin, respectively.

The voting machine’s manufacturer called the problem a user error and said that voters could accidentally hit the “enter” button whilst also rotating the selection dial, which could have led to an undesired vote for the opposing candidate.

Additionally, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp – who is running to be governor of the Peach State – purged approximately 340,000 voter registrations within the last five years. Though Kemp claimed that these voters were either inactive or moved from their original address, journalist Greg Palast discovered that many voters had not changed their address since registering, in an investigation and subsequent lawsuit this month.

Branching off from election security, Pew researchers also explored Americans’ feelings about the registration process and ease of voting.

Overall, 67 percent of respondents said that election system facilitators should do “everything possible” to make it easy for every citizen to vote.

An even larger majority of Democratic respondents (84 percent) said the same. However, a slim majority of Republican respondents (51 percent) agreed with the statement that “citizens should have to prove they want to vote by registering ahead of time.”

Following that same trend, 57 percent of Republican respondents agreed that “changing rules to make it easier to vote would make elections less secure.”

A significant majority of Democratic respondents (76 percent) disagreed with their Republican counterparts, saying that making it easier to vote would not affect election security.

Researchers also presented respondents with a list of possible voter registration changes, some of which saw majority bipartisan support.

Overwhelming majorities of respondents from both parties indicated support for automatic registration updates when people move, as well as requiring polling locations to keep printed backups of votes from electronic voting machines.

Seventy-one percent of Democratic respondents and 59 percent of Republican respondents said they support making Election Day a national holiday, and majorities from both parties also supported removing inaccurate and duplicate registrations from voter rolls via an automatic process.

Just 34 percent of all respondents indicated support for conducting elections by mail, and only 37 percent supported removing people from voter rolls for not voting recently or failing to confirm.

Results on other questions showed majority support for measures such as same-day registration, automatic registration for eligible citizens, allowing felons to vote after serving their sentences, and requiring a government-issued ID to vote.

Despite concerns about election influence and flaws in the voting process, respondents overall indicated they were confident in the accuracy of vote counts.  Eighty-two percent indicated confidence in vote tally accuracy in their communities, and 72 percent said the same of the vote counts in the United States overall.

While those surveyed indicated unease with hacking and foreign influence in the election as Nov. 6 approaches, they nonetheless remain confident that the midterms will go smoothly despite structural problems that most support fixing.

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