The Maine Republican Party sent out an email Friday to its supporters with the subject line, "Ranked-Choice Voting risks the security of YOUR vote." Words emboldened in the email include "Department of Homeland Security" and "security vulnerabilities." Pretty intense, right?
Party leaders are using the same Russia hacking narrative that has dominated national news to convince voters that if ranked choice voting is used, Maine will be more vulnerable to cyber-attacks from Russia or other foreign states/entities.
Except, there is problem with this: It is completely false.
In fact, I reached out to Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap's office for comment, and they sent me their reply to the GOP's email, telling party leaders that their claim of increased cyber-security threats under ranked choice voting was inaccurate.
Dunlap's office quoted the GOP's email in the response:
“At the same time Secretary Dunlap told us that Maine's elections were safe from hackers, he said that the only piece of Maine's election system that is vulnerable is our voter file, because it is stored in a single, centralized location.
But ranked choice voting will require a single, centralized counting process – it will literally require us to move the entire process of counting our ballots into the same type of security vulnerability Secretary of State Dunlap has identified for the voter file.”
Here is the truth:
"The Central Voter Registration (CVR) database is not comparable to the ranked-choice tabulation process, since one is secured online and the other will be secured physically.
- The CVR is online and can be accessed by city and town clerks with passwords, to update it as needed. It is housed within the Department of the Secretary of State and monitored by our own Information Services staff for any attempts at unauthorized access.
- The ranked-choice voting tabulation will not be online in any way, at any point in the process, and is thus not susceptible to cybersecurity threats. While the final rules are still in development, we know for sure that no part of this process will be conducted using computer systems that are connected to any sort of network/internet. It is likely that the sealed boxes of ballots from hand-count towns and the memory sticks from tabulation machines will be transported to a central location by an authorized entity (likely Maine State Police) and stored in a secure location to be run through a high-speed tabulator to get the overall results. The software to determine the results will be operated on hardwired computers that are on a closed system. None of our tabulator machines statewide have connectivity capability either."
"Thus, it is incorrect to say that RCV presents “the same type of security vulnerability Secretary of State Dunlap has identified for the voter file,” writes Dunlap's office.
Maine politicians wanted to take ranked choice voting away from voters after a historic vote in 2016 approved its use for statewide elections. The people fought back and won. Still, opponents are pulling out all the stops to kill ranked choice voting -- even inaccurate fear-mongering.
But, for the first time in US history, ranked choice voting will be used in primary elections for governor, state legislature, US House, AND US Senate. Voters will also vote on the people's veto to officially repeal the law that sets ranked choice voting up for repeal in 2021.
Stay tuned for more on this story.