Three companies control the fate of United States elections. Election Systems & Software, Dominion Voting Systems, and Hart InterCivic dominate 92% of the voting machine market, standing to make bank as states rush to update their systems before the looming 2020 election.
In 2016, counties in 16 states used paperless equipment without backup records. The Department of Homeland Security later notified six of those states that hackers targeted their systems. There’s now widespread recognition that paperless machines are the least secure. Some state governments control voting methods, others delegate the decision to local authority, but in most of those states, officials are moving to purchase new machines.
“The transition is still happening, but I’m hopeful every battleground state will have a paper backup of every vote,” said Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the NYU Brennan Center For Justice. Norden predicts 90% of votes will have paper backups in 2020.
Some security experts like Daniel Wagner, CEO of Country Risk Solutions, still don’t think it’s enough.
“There are massive gaps and inconsistencies in our electoral process, and the local, state, and federal governments are doing too little, too late to make a meaningful difference, especially by 2020,” Wagner said.
Indeed, the United States Congress has yet to allocate funds to improving security for the 2020 election.
A year out, states are increasing threat assessments and plans for post-election audits. But the greatest change since 2016? Citizens and officials alike are viscerally aware of their vulnerability.
A version of this article appears in the November 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “Securing the Vote for 2020.”
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