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By Matt Murphy

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, SEPT. 6, 2018....Secretary of State challenger Anthony Amore proposed on Thursday that Massachusetts require all voters to present identification before they are allowed to cast a ballot, wading into a controversial topic that the Swampscott Republican called key to preserving the integrity of elections.

Republican state secretary candidate Anthony Amore pointed to specifics of his election security plan Thursday in front of the State House. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]

Amore, who is the director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, said he didn't know how pervasive voter fraud is in Massachusetts, but believes it's too easy currently for someone to walk into a polling station, present themselves as someone they're not, and vote.

"It leaves a vulnerability in our system," Amore said at a press conference outside the State House Thursday where he outlined a 10-point election security plan that includes security assessment and testing contracts, tapping area universities for expertise, engaging with clerks who oversee local elections and advocating for election security funding.

Massachusetts is currently one 14 states that doesn't have a voter identification law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, though some voters can still be asked to present ID in special circumstances. State laws vary from strict photo ID requirements to requests for voters to present non-photo identification.

Across the country, voter ID laws with varying degrees of identification requirements have been enacted as safeguards against voter fraud, but critics often accuse supporters of using ID requirements to disenfranchise blocs of voters, including black, Hispanic and other minority groups that may not have licenses or access to other forms of identification.

"Certainly, I wouldn't want any procedures, laws or policies that disenfranchise voters but these laws have been upheld in a number of states where it's currently implemented. I don't see it as the stumbling block people believe it is. It's very small fraction of people who don't have access to an ID," Amore said.

Amore said that he would also support state funding to provide special IDs for people without identification to vote.

Following the 2016 elections, President Donald Trump famously claimed without evidence that thousands of Massachusetts residents were bused into New Hampshire to vote illegally, swinging the state to Hillary Clinton. An investigation by New Hampshire officials later found no evidence to support that claim.

Asked whether he thought voter fraud was a widespread problem in Massachusetts, Amore said, "We don't know what we don't know. We do know that in North Carolina two weeks ago nineteen people were indicted for non-citizen voting. I know that even if one person votes and takes away someone else's vote that's a real damage to our democracy."

Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said her organization does not support an expansion of voter ID laws in Massachusetts. Currently, a voter can be asked to provide an ID only if they registered by mail after 2002 and have never voted before. Wilmot said that forms of acceptable ID in those case are also flexible.

"Our laws regarding ID currently on the books seem to be doing the trick in Massachusetts right now," Wilmot said.

Describing voter ID as "a common sense approach," Amore said that poll workers believe voter ID is needed and he's heard about the issue on the campaign trail. "Frankly, when I speak to voters across the state they often say to me, 'How is it that I can go to vote on election day and I can basically say I'm whoever I wish and there's really no way of checking?' " Amore said.

Amore is running against 24-year-incumbent Secretary of State William Galvin, who on Tuesday comfortably beat back an insurgent primary challenge from Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim.

"Bill Galvin is a good man and I admire his public service," Amore said at a press conference outside the State House. "I just think from his world view that he fails to grasp the full measure of the problems we face."

Galvin, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on Amore's critiques of his cybersecurity preparedness or offer his own views on voter ID.

Saying election systems in Massachusetts rely on "antiquated methods" and are vulnerable to hackers, Amore's plan calls for working with cities and towns to "fortify" their voter rolls, enroll in the election cybersecurity task force with the National Association of Secretaries of State and create a strategy to move the Voter Registration Information System off "antiquated phone systems."

"Paper balloting is helpful against hacking, but it is not alone the answer. The voter rolls stored on computers and connected via telephone lines are vulnerable. When hackers succeed in deleting thousands of voters from the rolls, chaos and havoc will ensue at polling locations," Amore said.

Galvin has said that Massachusetts wasn't a target in 2016 due to the state's "closed system" where the voter database is not connected to the internet and can only be accessed by Galvin's office and local elections offices.

Amore, however, called that the "tombstone approach" to cybersecurity because improvements only get made after a major breach.


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