Four Penn State Panelists Discuss Election Security

Story posted October 10, 2020 in CommRadio, News by Kira Sarsfield

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Four panelists participated in a virtual Zoom event regarding election security on Wednesday. Margaret Hu, Andrea Matwyshyn, Patrick McDaniel and John Gastil were the panelists for the event, with Sandra Allain as the moderator.

The virtual event was sponsored by Penn State’s Law, Policy, and Engineering (LPE) initiative. The discussion highlighted many new reforms for this year’s election, like clarification on mail-in ballots and America’s history with cyberattacks during voting periods.

All four panelists had the opportunity to give some food for thought on the topics that were presented. Many discussed different topics that related back to voting, such as cybercrime, supply chain integrity, counting votes and more.

McDaniel, professor of computer science and engineering in Penn State’s College of Engineering, said that multiple variables like cyber attacks and voter intimidation make a significant difference in the voting process today.

“Perhaps the most damaging one is the misinformation campaigns,” McDaniel said. “It’s been weaponized to a level that is truly alarming, and social media has not taken responsibility for their role [in voter elections].”

Hu, the associate dean for non-JD programs at Penn State, was asked about problems with the election system today and highlighted the four main problems that she sees. Misinformation, psychological operations, cybercrime, and cyber attacks are some of the few points of vulnerability that Hu sees in the system.

“For propaganda, it’s been widely publicized as fake news,” Hu said. “The extent to which there’s been a manipulation of social media platforms and the weaponization of information, including the widely now-coined term fake news.”

Gastil, a professor of communication arts and sciences and political science at Penn State, highlighted the importance of rural communities in the election process.

“It’s quite possible that this election won’t be close, but you shouldn’t assume that,” Gatsil said. “What’s certainly the case is that the results on election night will not be the same as the results that we will see when we have a full count of ballots.”

Matwyshyn talked about the errors in the voting system, and how we can fix them by encouraging new measures and building new levels of trust within the voting systems.

“Looking at our election systems, [we need to be] thinking about are we mitigating risks at every point where we can to ensure that it is Americans voting in these elections to elect Americans?” Matwyshyn said.

At the end of the discussion, the panelists welcomed a Q&A session from participants.


Kira Sarsfield is a sophomore majoring in advertising and public relations. To contact her, email

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