Our democracy is gravely at risk from foreign meddling. As Michael Chertoff and Anders Fogh Rasmussen explain their article, “The Unhackable Election: What It Takes to Defend Democracy” in Foreign Affairs:
Because the Internet and automation enable aggressors to act anonymously on a large scale, technology has significantly reduced the costs and risks of election meddling.
In some cases, foreign meddlers have tried to directly boost whichever candidate or party was most likely to adopt a soft stance on Russia. However, in most cases, their strategy is simply to discredit the entire democratic process. In the 2016 U.S. presidential primaries, for example, Russian operatives supported both the Republican candidate Donald Trump and the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, with the goal of radicalizing the political debate.
Nor is the threat limited to Russia:
In August, John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, announced that there was a “sufficient national security concern about Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling, and North Korean meddling” and said that the U.S. government was working to crack down on it. That same month, Twitter suspended 284 fake accounts with apparent links to Iran, and Facebook discovered 76 fake Instagram accounts originating in Iran.
The article discusses many approaches to the threat, including the technical and human aspects of cyberdefense; cooperation between the government and private sectors; updating our voting systems; and public education campaigns. It does not, however, mention something that makes elections in the United States particularly vulnerable to foreign interference: the Electoral College.
To shift the result of our elections, a malevolent foreign power does not need to reach everyone—just a few people in the small number of states that decide elections. If the president were elected by the national popular vote, coordinating a disinformation campaign would be more complicated, more expensive, and less successful.