Accept offers to help keep election safe

Ohio and West Virginia election officials maintain computerized balloting systems in their states are secure against tampering by online hackers. But if that is so now, it may not be something on which we can rely for long.

Voter registration systems in more than 20 states have been attacked to varying degrees by online hackers during recent months, a Homeland Security official revealed last week. He told The Associated Press it was not known whether the attacks originated in the United States or elsewhere. The hackers’ intentions were not clear, he added.

Indeed, that is one of the challenges of cyber security. Knowing whether a hacker is a teenager merely trying out his or her skills or is part of a sophisticated operation with nefarious intent can be difficult. All threats must be taken seriously, at least initially.

The stakes are enormous. Hackers have stolen millions of dollars in single attacks, invaded secret government computers and incapacitated entire hospitals. About the only major coup they have not scored is influencing an election – that we know of.

Election tampering is serious business. In the past, the only way to accomplish it was through direct human intervention. Now it is possible to sway an election remotely, with little or no way of identifying, much less apprehending, the culprit.

That is why it is absolutely imperative that state election officials take it seriously, especially now, with a critical election for president on the horizon. Ohio is a battleground state. How Buckeye State residents vote could sway the election, one way or the other.

That makes the state a tempting target for hackers bent on tampering with the election.

Among disturbing aspects of the AP story is the fact it appears officials in some states are not eager to accept federal assistance in erecting walls against hackers. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant should not be among that number. They should embrace all the help they are offered in safeguarding the integrity of elections in our two states.