The hotly contested Senate race between Marsha Blackburn and Phil Bredesen will be closely watched Tuesday night — and not just by people in Tennessee.
State election officials are bolstering the online systems that they use to post results for a potential onslaught of traffic, coming from political spectators around the world.
To prepare, state election administrator Mark Goins says a team of about 10 people has been working for months to get ready for election night. Steps include boosting server capacity, beefing up cybersecurity and training local election officials in spotting threats.
The scenario they're most concerned with is if the race between Blackburn and Bredesen comes down to the wire, which could create a crush of traffic to the state's elections website.
"What would generate a lot of traffic?" he says. "Say you have a very close election, and the Senate literally comes down to one state and we may be that state. ... What happens when you get that traffic continually coming?"
But election junkies aren't the only concern. More menacingly, hackers could try to take down the state election site — or possibly even alter the posted results — in an effort to sow distrust in the outcome.
Goins says the state has come up with alternative ways to report results, including using social media.
The threat is not theoretical. During local elections in May, hackers took out the Knox County election site for an hour after polls closed. Officials determined it was a smokescreen, meant to distract IT workers so thieves could attempt to steal confidential data.