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Press Release

New Report: States Need More Federal Funding to Keep Elections Secure

The report profiles six states as case studies that, taken together, represent a broad range of the ongoing election security challenges faced by jurisdictions around the country.

July 18, 2019

Contact Inform­a­tion:

Alli­ance for Secur­ing Demo­cracy at The German Marshall Fund of the United States – Sydney Simon, ssimon@g­mfus.org, 202–683–2648
Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU Law – Rebecca Autrey, rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu, 646–292–8316
R Street Insti­tute – David Bahr, dbahr@r­street.org, 202–550–5451
Pitt Cyber – Deborah M. Todd, dmtod­d@pitt.edu, 412–624–6687

New York, NY – Elec­tion offi­cials across the coun­try need more federal resources to address voting system secur­ity chal­lenges, accord­ing to a new report from experts at the Alli­ance for Secur­ing Demo­cracyBren­nan Center for Justice at NYU LawPitt Cyber, and R Street Insti­tute

Defend­ing Elec­tions: Federal Fund­ing Needs for State Elec­tion Secur­ity exam­ines projects that state offi­cials are pursu­ing across the coun­try with $380 million in federal funds appro­pri­ated last year by Congress, such as repla­cing outdated machines. The Elec­tion Assist­ance Commis­sion estim­ates that 85 percent of this money will be spent by the 2020 elec­tion. Without addi­tional federal support, substan­tial elec­tion secur­ity needs will likely go unad­dressed. The report profiles six states as case stud­ies that, taken together, repres­ent a broad range of the ongo­ing elec­tion secur­ity chal­lenges faced by juris­dic­tions around the coun­try: Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Louisi­ana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.

“As the first line of defense against cyber­at­tacks on voting infra­struc­ture, state and local elec­tion offi­cials need more resources to do their job,” said Liz Howard, coun­sel in the Bren­nan Center’s Demo­cracy Program and former deputy commis­sioner of elec­tions for the Virginia Depart­ment of Elec­tions. “Congress took an import­ant step last year by provid­ing fund­ing, but it wasn’t nearly enough to tackle the full range of threats that offi­cials confront on a daily basis.” 

“Elec­tion secur­ity is a national secur­ity imper­at­ive for our demo­cracy – and it’s depend­ent upon the elec­tion systems of 50 state govern­ments and the vigil­ance of elec­tion offi­cials in over 10,000 elec­tion juris­dic­tions across the coun­try,” said David Salvo and Rachael Dean Wilson of the bipar­tisan Alli­ance for Secur­ing Demo­cracy. “Provid­ing one-time federal fund­ing support does not ‘fix’ the prob­lem – secur­ing our elec­tion infra­struc­ture requires consist­ent upgrades, monit­or­ing and educa­tion. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill should continue to support state efforts to secure their elec­tion systems by approv­ing addi­tional fund­ing to states.”

“Defend­ing our elec­tion system from attack by hostile foreign powers is clearly in the national secur­ity interests of the United States,” said Jim Baker, director of national secur­ity & cyber­se­cur­ity at the R Street Insti­tute. “Every Amer­ican, regard­less of party affil­i­ation, should demand that federal, state and local offi­cials do their utmost to protect the sanc­tity of all of our votes.”

Authors found that states are largely using last year’s fund­ing to strengthen cyber­se­cur­ity defenses, and purchase new, up-to-date voting machines and other crit­ical IT infra­struc­ture like voter regis­tra­tion data­bases. Offi­cials are also work­ing to imple­ment post-elec­tion audits that can check elec­tronic tallies from machines against back-up paper records. Audits can help identify abnor­mal­it­ies in results that might be caused by a hack or cyber­at­tack.

But states face signi­fic­ant fund­ing short­ages to fully complete those upgrades. Louisi­ana, for example, still uses paper­less voting machines statewide. These machines are vulner­able to hack­ing and fail to provide a paper record that can be used for an audit. The state faces a multi­mil­lion-dollar gap in fund­ing as it tries to replace its machines.

“Paper­less voting systems present a clear and present danger to the secur­ity of the vote and must be urgently replaced where they remain in use,” said Chris Deluzio, Pitt Cyber’s policy director. “Such efforts to replace these vulner­able machines are under­way in Pennsylvania, for example, but Congress should provide further fund­ing to help shore up our demo­cracy’s defenses.”

Local elec­tion offi­cials in states surveyed also need more assist­ance to bolster cyber­se­cur­ity beyond what last year’s fund­ing was able to provide. Other needs that could be met by more resources include addi­tional upgrades to voting equip­ment and regis­tra­tion data­bases, train­ing for offi­cials, support in bolster­ing the audit process, and more.

To read the full report, click here

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