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Press Release

Brennan Center Releases Guide for Election Officials to Prepare for Cyberattacks and Malfunctions

The guide covers all aspects of election infrastructure.

December 19, 2019
Contact: Rebecca Autrey, Media Contact,, 202-753-5904

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law has released a guide for state and local election officials about how to prepare for and recover from cyberattacks and technical failures during the primaries and on Election Day.

“Election officials have enormous responsibility in 2020. They must keep the vote secure despite cyberattacks by foreign governments, and they need to start now,” said Liz Howard, a co-author of the guide released today, former deputy commissioner for the Virginia Department of Elections, and counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “We have compiled real-life, practical guidance for preventing election interference and recovering from it quickly if it does occur.”

On Monday, federal legislators announced that Congress’s government-wide spending deal for 2020 will include $425 million for states’ election security. Preparing for Cyberattack and Technical Failures: A Guide for Election Officials covers supplies and technology that many jurisdictions lack and might purchase with the federal funding, should the spending deal be passed by the full Congress and signed by the President.  

The guide covers all aspects of election infrastructure:

  • Voter registration websites and databases
  • Electronic pollbooks, used by poll workers to check voter registrations
  • Voting machines
  • Election night reporting systems that transmit early results to a central hub that provides results to the media

“Election officials have to plan ahead to make sure that all eligible voters can cast their ballots and that the election results are kept secure,” said Edgardo Cortés, co-author of Preparing for Cyberattack and Technical Failures, advisor to the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, and former commissioner of elections in Virginia. “That means getting ready months ahead of Election Day.”

The authors’ recommendations include but are not limited to:

  • Putting voting systems through periodic, independent vulnerability testing
  • Making and securely storing daily back-ups of voter registration databases in the lead-up to an election
  • Printing enough ballots for all registered voters in jurisdictions that use paper ballots
  • Avoiding noncritical software updates or patches for 60 days before an election to increase the likelihood that problems with key functions are detected and can be repaired in time

For a list of how much each state would receive in election security funding from the $425 million in the current federal budget deal, click here.

To read more about the Brennan Center’s election security work, click here.