By NELLIE GORBEA
Since 2016, Russian government hackers have kept no secrets about their desire to meddle in our elections. They want to sow distrust in the integrity of our electoral process, to …
By NELLIE GORBEA
Since 2016, Russian government hackers have kept no secrets about their desire to meddle in our elections. They want to sow distrust in the integrity of our electoral process, to make us lose faith in the cornerstone of our democracy: the vote.
Here in Rhode Island, we are ready. We have some of the strongest cybersecurity protections in the country. In fact, our state is a national model for building and maintaining a secure elections system.
We use paper ballots and conduct risk-limiting audits to make sure that every vote is counted as intended. We overhauled our central voter registration system to replace an outmoded one that had not been upgraded for 15 years. We are constantly testing our systems and training our people so that we are following the most up-to-date best practices. I have led efforts to develop a plan to ensure that elections officials and security agencies at all levels of government know how to quickly detect and respond to cyberattacks. We’ve brought together local, state, and federal partners to make sure that we are all coordinating to head off cyber risks.
Election cybersecurity is an all-hands-on-deck effort in our state. In 2020, we conducted three safe and secure elections: a presidential primary, a state primary and a general election that shattered turnout records amid a global pandemic. We were able to do this because of collaboration and vigilance at all levels of government—from the Department of Homeland Security, to the state Board of Elections, to our local elections officials and boards of canvassers.
The strong safeguards my office has built over the past seven years are firmly in place, but there was nothing in state law to ensure they would remain so in future administrations.
That’s why I worked with the state legislature to codify these best practices. I am pleased that the General Assembly passed this legislation this spring and it was signed into law in June. This means Rhode Islanders can trust that their vote will remain secure no matter how they decide to cast their ballot in this year’s elections—and in future elections.
While the passage of this new law ensures that election cybersecurity will remain a priority for years to come, we need Rhode Islanders to remain vigilant, too. More than ever, false information is being shared on social media both mistakenly and intentionally. Regardless of intent, mis/disinformation shared on social media leads to voter confusion and can result in Rhode Islanders’ mistrust in the integrity of our elections. You have the power to stop the spread by thinking critically and reaching out to the most trusted source of information: Rhode Island elections officials.
You can also help safeguard our democracy by stepping up and getting involved. Become a poll worker. Run a voter registration drive. Call out false information spread on social media.
Elections are an all-hands-on-deck effort. We all must do our part to ensure that Rhode Island continues to be a national leader in cybersecurity and election integrity.
Nellie M. Gorbea has served as Rhode Island Secretary of State since 2015.
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