With its new Super Tuesday election in 2020 and demographic dominance, California is the ultimate prize in presidential elections not only for candidates, but also for enemies of democracy.
The latest intelligence reports conclude that this enemy is mostly Russian. Though Russian interference in the 2016 election had no quantifiable impact on vote tallies themselves, it was an unprecedented attempt to undermine confidence in our democracy.
So just three months before the June primary, are we ready? On Wednesday, the state Senate and Assembly committees on elections are conducting a joint hearing to get to the bottom of that question.
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We face more sophisticated cybersecurity threats every day and cannot afford to be complacent about the security of our elections. The chief of U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency told Congress that the White House had not directed intelligence officials to defend against further attacks on social media channels and elections systems.
Given the lack of action by the Trump administration, California must fortify our election infrastructure.
Fortunately, we have many key structural protections already in place. California voters primarily cast paper ballots, and the use of paperless voting systems has been banned in California since 2006. For the small number of votes that are still cast on electronic voting systems in California, a paper trail is required for audit and recount purposes. Also, all California voters have the right to receive and cast a paper ballot, even those in counties that use electronic voting systems.
But there are other important steps that California can take to improve the security of our elections. As in the vast majority of other states, many California counties use out-of-date voting equipment that poses greater security and reliability threats than newer machines. We support Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to include $134 million in the budget to replace our outdated voting systems.
On Wednesday, our committees will convene a panel of experts, including state and county elections officials and cybersecurity experts. Even if the foundation for California’s elections system is rock solid, the soft infrastructure of the internet remains vulnerable to bot-driven misinformation and propaganda.
Based on the hearing, we will be rolling out additional steps that California can take to protect the integrity of our elections and restore the public’s faith in the results. Our republic depends on it.
Marc Berman, a Palo Alto Democrat, is chairman of the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting, represents the 24th Assembly District and can be contacted at Assemblymember.Berman@assembly.ca.gov. Henry Stern, a Canoga Park Democrat, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments, represents the 27th Senate District and can be contacted at email@example.com.