Merrill talks election security in visit to Westport
WESTPORT — With election season well on its way, the Secretary of the State Denise Merrill stopped in Westport to discuss election security and voter suppression.
“People keep asking me what’s the biggest challenge of the upcoming election besides the obvious, and it is really public information,” Merrill said at a ReSisters meeting on Monday.
With an overflow of information, Merrill said it’s important voters gather correct and up-to-date information.
“I’ve never seen the American public so skeptical of everything,” Merrill said. “I’m very worried.”
She stressed the importance of election security as well, as Connecticut was one of 21 states probed by Russian IP addresses in an attempt to enter the state’s voter registry in the 2016 presidential election.
“When we talk about this you have to be very careful to understand this has nothing to do with the tabulators,” Merill said, adding the voter list is one of the only key items on the internet.
The list, which is one of the largest databases in the state, gets a million probes a day, she said, however the vast majority is for data mining.
While Russian probes into Connecticut’s system were unsuccessful, Merrill said the attempt could’ve been to sow distrust in the public.
“That to my mind is the real danger in election security,” she said. “It’s not the cybersecurity stuff.”
With misinformation being a large concern, Merrill’s office is working to establish a public education social media campaign, which will focus on delivering easily digestible information for voters.
“That is the challenge,” she said. “Making people understand all of this when they’re getting a barrage of information from everywhere.”
In more recent years, voting rights have come to the forefront of political discourse.
“We’ve seen this for the last eight or nine years. In fact it started when I came into the office in 2010,” she said. “Not an accident, I think, that President (Barack) Obama was in office and there was a real concern that all these minorities and poor people were going to start voting.”
This was evident in legislation Merrill tried to get passed. House Bill 7160, which could’ve expanded voting rights in the state, died on the last day of this year’s legislative session after Senate Republicans threatened to filibuster the bill.
Despite this, Merrill said her office will continue to be rigidly neutral and focus on ensuring elections are fair.
“My goal is to make sure every eligible voter, that is someone who is 18 and a citizen, is able to vote easily without problems,” she said. “We’re well on our way. We’ve done a lot.”