Sunday, September 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Improving election systems

Four separate investigations by Congress and Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed by the Justice Department, already are exploring Russia's meddling into America's 2016 election. But a new report on the vulnerability of America's voting apparatus is a wake-up call for Americans of all political stripes. Florida is better off than many states, but there is a broad need to improve voting machines, technology, training and security to protect the elections process and bolster public faith in the outcomes.

The report, released in June, is the latest critical look at the nation's electoral process by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. It highlights two areas vulnerable to attack: voting machines and the voter registration rolls. In many cases, these rely on older designs and technology, making them harder to secure with updated software and more vulnerable to being hacked. Forty-two percent of states use voting machines that were purchased more than a decade ago, the report found, putting the systems "perilously" close to the end of their expected life-spans. Aging machines are more prone to crashing, which can lead to long lines at the polls, and they rely on security patches no longer supported by software makers. Those weaknesses are significant, because hackers only need to create chaos in one state or city for suspicion of the voting system to go viral nationwide.

The authors make three key recommendations. Congress and the states need to help county elections officials upgrade their equipment. Fourteen states (not Florida) still use paperless voting machines, the report found, and nearly half use voter registration databases that were initially created more than a decade ago. Congress could provide grants to enable county elections offices, which largely administer elections, to upgrade their technology. More states could require postelection audits; today, only 26 (including Florida) do. And state and county governments could require more routine assessments of emerging cyber security threats. Funding shortages and complacency have kept many states from hiring the technical expertise to stay ahead of the game.

Government agencies at all levels have taken important steps in the past decade to make their voting systems more secure. At least 80 percent of voters make their selection on a paper ballot or on a machine that produces a paper trail. Florida and other states have upgraded their voter registration systems, scanned more rigorously for cyber attacks and built walls to protect their computer systems. Still, unlike Florida, most jurisdictions don't conduct robust postelection audits comparing paper records to software totals, the Brennan report found. That's a serious gap in the system.

The nation has some 8,000 jurisdictions, the study noted, with voters casting their ballots at about 100,000 polling places. That level of decentralization is protection itself, for it makes it practically impossible to hijack the nation's elections system at a single point. Still, as former CIA director James Woolsey noted in a forward to the report, hackers are increasingly sophisticated, and U.S. intelligence expects that Russia and other players will be back in 2018 and in later election cycles to inflict more damage on the nation's voting systems. This is a universal threat to all voters and political parties that cannot be lost in the current furor over Russia.

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Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18