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Fears Over Election Hacking May Keep a Quarter of US Voters Home in Midterms

The fallout from all of the hubbub over election-season hacking is likely to take a big toll in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections in the United States: A full one-quarter of all voters in a recent survey said they will consider not voting in upcoming elections over cybersecurity fears.

“United States voters have had no shortage of cybersecurity news related to elections in recent months, ranging from allegations of Russian interference to revelations that specific states were targeted in attack campaigns,” said Patrick Morley, president and CEO at Carbon Black, which conducted the survey. “Among some of the frequent topics being discussed in the news have been political infighting, conjecture regarding collusion, and questions about what’s being done to prepare for the ‘next attack.’”

And this has had a profound effect: Extrapolated to account for all eligible voters in the United States (about 218 million people), this means as many as 58.8 million voters may actively decide to stay home during upcoming elections.

Specifically, Russia’s potential influence in the 2016 election has been perhaps the biggest hot-button topic. The survey asked: “Do you believe foreign entities influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential election?” and nearly half (47%) of voters said yes.

When asked, “What country poses the biggest cybersecurity risk to U.S. elections?” 45% of voters said Russia; 20% said the United States itself; 17% said North Korea; 11% said China; and 4% said Iran. (3% answered “other”).

The survey also found that potential voter inaction may be closely tied to voters’ distrust in election authorities to keep their voting information safe. When asked: “Do you trust your state to keep your voting information safe?” and “Do you trust your voting district to keep your voting information safe?” only 45% of respondents replied “yes.”

Needless to say, these results are not small beer.

“The idea that even a single voter is willing to forfeit their vote in fear of a cyberattack is startling,” Morley said. “The fact that one in four voters said they would be willing to do so speaks volumes about how deeply this doubt has penetrated. The alleged cyberattacks surrounding the 2016 elections were a clarion call that foreign entities are motivated to disrupt US elections. As we head to the 2018 midterms, the United States must prioritize restoring voters’ confidence. Every vote matters. If cyberattacks threaten (or even suggest) that the individual voter is powerless, the fundamental principle of our democracy is undermined.”

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