"Sham elections in Cambodia remind us democracy is precious. We must defend our elections and right to vote from threats - foreign & domestic."
Amore: Securing the Integrity of Elections
By Anthony Amore
Members of Lowell’s Southeast Asian community recently expressed their dismay over the blatantly rigged elections in Cambodia on July 29th. The efforts of Cambodia’s authoritarian ruler to retain power through a sham election includes imprisoning legitimate opponents and creating fake opposition campaigns.
As a candidate for Massachusetts Secretary of State, the sanctity of elections is very important to me, not just in Massachusetts, but everywhere. Government suppression of opposition parties in any election runs contrary to human rights, and I stand alongside the Cambodian-American community in denouncing the illegitimate July 29 election.
As we watch Cambodia with concern, we must not rest on our laurels. Our nation and Commonwealth also face threats to the integrity of our own elections. The challenges to the security of our voting system are both foreign and domestic.
The recent federal indictment of 12 Russians in a plot to hack and disrupt the 2016 elections confirmed what we already suspected. Russian cyberattacks focused on local elections boards in other states and exploited weaknesses in their cybersecurity, thus compromising a half-million voter registrations. Imagine showing up to vote, knowing you were registered, only to find the local voting records were hacked and your name erased.
It is not enough that our state uses paper ballots rather than electronic balloting to prevent hacking. We need to get serious about protecting the voter lists, which are maintained in computer databases. We need a secretary of state who will make it a priority to work with partners in federal Homeland Security, as well as local election officials, to ensure the security of voter data. We need to tap the knowledge of election cybersecurity experts we have right here at our colleges and universities in Massachusetts, who are doing important, cutting-edge work in the field.
Unless we secure our voting system, we risk voters losing confidence in the process. This is especially a risk in our fast-growing immigrant communities. It is critical that our newly naturalized citizens engage in the process. They must trust that our polls and our governments are fair and secure, unlike the regimes they left behind.
When people make the effort to naturalize and become citizens, it is very important their vote be protected. Naturalized citizens value their right to vote. And we should never tolerate people going to the ballot box and finding someone had already voted under their name. I will work with the Legislature to pass a comprehensive plan that include layer upon layer of security measures.
I will also work to defeat wrongheaded proposals to grant the right to vote to noncitizens, even if in only municipal elections as decided by a city or town. Voting is the right of a citizen, and it should not be handed out as a door prize to anyone who enters our nation. We already have a process for earning the right to vote and that is through obtaining citizenship.
As citizens, our vote is precious. We only get one. We should do everything we can to ensure the integrity of our voting system.