[…] Could hackers change the numbers to change our elections? The Fix spoke by phone and email with Merle King, executive director of the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University to get an answer. In summary: It would be harder than we think — in part because we tend to conflate a number of very different election systems.
“One of the challenges the public has in sorting through the various threads of the current election cycle’s stories is understanding the differences between a campaign system, an election system and a voting system,” King told us.
The campaign system is the tool set used by candidates or parties to get people elected. The election system covers voter registration systems and other data centralization and is specific to jurisdictions. The voting system is the actual process of voting: the machines, the ballots and the designations of who votes where and on what. Information flows between these systems, but not always in two directions: Campaigns, for example, use voter registration data from the elections system but don’t send information back to it. So if a campaign is hacked (or if the Democratic National Committee is), there’s no risk to the voter registration database.
Confusing these systems can mean misunderstanding the threat — and the intent of the hackers.