(FOX 2) - "I believe we are facing potentially one of the greatest threats to our democracy," said former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday during an online forum, sounding the alarm about cybersecurity and attacks that could come from foreign governments like Russia, terrorists, or bad actors that could threaten the November election.
"We essentially need to be on red alert," he said. The former governor and tech executive spoke on a cybersecurity panel organized by the University of Southern California Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.
"Just think of the possibility of a bad actor interfering in a limited number of precincts in key swing states in our country. By corrupting the votes in those places they could corrupt the outcome for the entire nation," he said.
Snyder called on city, township and county clerks to get the resources they need to protect against cyber attacks.
"If you're a clerk responsible for elections in our state, you're on the front lines of democracy as we approach November," he said.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says 1,520 election jurisdictions are in Michigan, each with its own system. That decentralization helps ward off attacks.
"Is our election infrastructure secure? In Michigan it is. We have paper ballots; we have tabulators that are not connected to the internet no matter what you hear on Twitter; there's a lot of misinformation going on about that," she said.
Another issue, says Benson, has to do with the hacking of voters' minds.
"This year, more than ever before, foreign and domestic actors are seeking to infiltrate voters' minds and the minds of our citizens with misinformation to confuse them about not only the sanctity of the process but the security of the process as well," she said.
This, she says, is causing confusion and uncertainty. Voters may believe their votes won't count, making efforts to disengage and disenfranchise through disinformation a success.
"If voters believe that, then everything we do actually create a secure system falls on deaf ears," she said.
To that end, they've launched a website where people can ask questions and dispel myths that may be circulating on social media: Michigan.Gov/electionsecurity.
Benson is also reminding voters that, with the massive number of absentee ballots expected because of COVID-19, we likely won't know who won on election night.
"We're going to count every ballot and we're going to report the accurate results of our elections as soon as possible. That may take time and when it does take time, that's simply the system working."