HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and Technology, HKS and FAS


Could an attacker impact U.S. elections by merely changing voter registrations online? This reportedly happened during the 2016 Republican primary election in Riverside County, California. What about elsewhere? We surveyed official voter record websites for the 50 states and the District of Columbia and assessed the means and costs for an attacker to change voter addresses. Relatedly, an attacker could also change party affiliations, delete voter registrations, or request absentee ballots online. A voter whose address was changed without her knowledge, for example, in most states would have a polling place different than expected. On Election Day, when she appeared at her presumed polling place, she would have been unable to cast a regular vote because her name was not on the precinct’s register. She may have been turned away or given a provisional ballot, and in many cases, a provisional ballot would not count. Perpetrated at scale, changing voter addresses, deleting voter registrations, or requesting absentee ballots could disenfranchise a significant percentage of voters, and if carefully distributed, such an attack might go unnoticed even if the impact was significant. So, how practical is it to submit false changes to voter registrations online?


Sweeney, Latanya, Ji Su Yoo, and Jinyan Zang. "Voter Identity Theft: Submitting Changes to Voter Registrations Online to Disrupt Elections." Technology Science (September 2017).