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How Federal Departments and Agencies Can Help Secure America’s Elections

As threats mount against election workers and infrastructure, federal agencies can and must act.

Published: April 21, 2022

Since the 2020 elec­tion, lawmakers, advoc­ates, and other public lead­ers have widely recog­nized that our demo­cracy is under attack. Much of this has rightly focused on the wave of new voting restric­tions passing in state legis­latures across the coun­try. But there has been a simul­tan­eous and related increase in threats to our elec­tion infra­struc­ture and elec­tion work­ers. Since 2020

  • Threats against elec­tion work­ers and offices have grown dramat­ic­ally
  • Increas­ing numbers of Amer­ic­ans have come to distrust the elec­tion system, foster­ing an envir­on­ment that is ripe for the spread of further disin­form­a­tion and misin­form­a­tion
  • A few current elec­tion offi­cials and many more candid­ates for such posi­tions in 2022 have them­selves adop­ted far-right conspir­acy theor­ies about “rigged” elec­tions, increas­ing the odds of insider attacks on our elec­tion infra­struc­ture, includ­ing cyber­at­tacks

On top of this, states must continue to guard against cyber­at­tacks. Indeed, the FBI repor­ted in March that unknown hack­ers targeted elec­tion offi­cials in at least nine states with phish­ing attacks just last fall. In the lead-up to the 2022 elec­tion, and with the Amer­ican intel­li­gence community warn­ing that heightened tensions with Russia over Ukraine may result in new attempts to “inter­fere with Amer­ican elec­tions,” these risks are likely to grow

A recent Bren­nan Center survey of elec­tion offi­cials bears out how seri­ous many of these prob­lems have become. Seventy-seven percent of local elec­tion offi­cials nation­wide say that threats against them have increased in recent years, and nearly one in three know of at least one elec­tion worker who left their job at least in part because of fear for their safety, increased threats, or intim­id­a­tion. More than half of offi­cials are concerned that some incom­ing colleagues might believe that wide­spread fraud occurred in 2020. Nearly two in three elec­tion offi­cials say the spread of false inform­a­tion has made their jobs more danger­ous. 

The federal govern­ment has taken some small steps over the last year to address these new threats. For example, the Depart­ment of Justice (DOJ) launched an Elec­tion Threats Task Force to address the rise in threats against elec­tion work­ers, and it approved the use of federal crim­inal justice grants to protect state and local elec­tion offi­cials from abuse. 

But given the scale of these new threats, the govern­ment’s actions have been far from suffi­cient. Fortu­nately, it is not too late for federal agen­cies to take mean­ing­ful action to protect elec­tion work­ers and our infra­struc­ture. We recom­mend the follow­ing:

  • The Depart­ment of Home­land Secur­ity (DHS) and the Cyber­se­cur­ity and Infra­struc­ture Secur­ity Agency (CISA), an oper­a­tional compon­ent of DHS, should direct resources and provide addi­tional assist­ance to elec­tions offices to secure elec­tion infra­struc­ture, protect elec­tion work­ers, and fight elec­tion misin­form­a­tion and disin­form­a­tion.
  • DOJ should increase outreach and cooper­a­tion with local elec­tion and public safety offi­cials.
  • The Elec­tion Assist­ance Commis­sion (EAC) should build out a train­ing hub for elec­tion offi­cials, improve voting system test­ing and certi­fic­a­tion programs, and increase over­sight of elec­tion vendors.

We discuss each of these import­ant actions in greater detail below.

DHS and CISA Should Provide Additional Resources and Assistance to Fight Election Misinformation and Secure Election Infrastructure and Offices

DHS is uniquely posi­tioned to address rising chal­lenges to elec­tion secur­ity, through the depart­ment’s admin­is­tra­tion of secur­ity grants and CISA’s direct assist­ance to state and local elec­tion offi­cials. The depart­ment should use this posi­tion to rein­state elec­tion spend­ing require­ments for federal grants, hire regional elec­tion secur­ity special­ists to support elec­tion offi­cials, renew and lever­age part­ner­ships to provide anti-doxing services, combat misin­form­a­tion, and expand the scope and scale of CISA’s Cross­feed program. 

Secret­ary Mayor­kas should help direct needed resources to elec­tion offices

In 2020, the Federal Emer­gency Manage­ment Agency (FEMA) included elec­tion secur­ity compon­ents in two of the agency’s four national prior­ity areas (NPAs), which guide its Home­land Secur­ity Grant Program (HSGP). State and local juris­dic­tions that received HSGP grants were required to use at least five percent of total funds on each NPA, guar­an­tee­ing that some funds would go toward elec­tion cyber­se­cur­ity and phys­ical secur­ity. For 2021, FEMA elim­in­ated these elec­tion secur­ity compon­ents. And while FEMA included “enhan­cing elec­tion secur­ity” as an NPA for 2022, recip­i­ents of HSGP grants will not be required to dedic­ate fund­ing toward elec­tion secur­ity as they will for other NPAs. 

In future years, we urge FEMA, at the direc­tion of DHS Secret­ary Mayor­kas, to use its broad discre­tion as admin­is­trator of HSGP grants to once again require states to alloc­ate a share of fund­ing toward elec­tion secur­ity projects. Until then, FEMA should conduct outreach to recip­i­ents that elev­ates the import­ance of elec­tion secur­ity needs, provides guid­ance on effect­ive elec­tion infra­struc­ture invest­ments, and encour­ages offi­cials to direct signi­fic­ant fund­ing for this purpose.

In addi­tion, CISA and FEMA should set elec­tion secur­ity as a prior­ity area for the newly created State and Local Cyber­se­cur­ity Grant Program, which the Infra­struc­ture Invest­ment and Jobs Act estab­lished to distrib­ute $1 billion in new cyber­se­cur­ity fund­ing over the next four years. 

To ensure grant fund­ing is being distrib­uted to the most press­ing state and local elec­tion secur­ity needs, Mayor­kas should also direct FEMA to require that the chief state elec­tion offi­cial of each state, as defined by the National Voter Regis­tra­tion Act, be consul­ted in the HSGP and State and Local Cyber­se­cur­ity Grant Program applic­a­tion processes.

The chief state elec­tion offi­cial could assist with the grant review process by affirm­ing local plans are in line with over­all state elec­tion secur­ity plans and are not already being funded through Help Amer­ica Vote Act (HAVA) appro­pri­ations. Chief state elec­tion offi­cials could also advise states on how to distrib­ute fund­ing to local recip­i­ents since local elec­tion offices have gener­ally received prior federal fund­ing through the chief elec­tion offi­cial.

These monies are badly needed. Despite the new risks to elec­tion secur­ity, Congress’s 2022 budget alloc­ated just $75 million in HAVA elec­tion secur­ity fund­ing, far less than was appro­pri­ated for elec­tions in 2018, 2019, or 2020. And while DOJ recently announced that funds from the Byrne-JAG program can now be used to deter and prevent threats of viol­ence against elec­tion work­ers, the use of these grants requires approval from other state and local offi­cials, who typic­ally have differ­ent fund­ing prior­it­ies and may be less famil­iar with the chal­lenges that elec­tion offi­cials are now facing. 

Mean­while, the costs to protect elec­tions continue to grow. The Bren­nan Center has estim­ated that states will need to spend at least $500 million on new voting machines in the next five years, and basic steps to address insider threats could cost hundreds of millions of dollars more. The total cost of adequately secur­ing our elec­tion infra­struc­ture from cyber threats over the next few years could easily exceed $2 billion. And none of this considers the addi­tional cost of protect­ing elec­tion offices and work­ers from phys­ical threats and viol­ence or combatting elec­tion misin­form­a­tion.

CISA should hire regional elec­tion secur­ity special­ists to work in each CISA region

Since 2017, CISA has worked with state and local juris­dic­tions to combat threats in three key areas: cyber­se­cur­ity; phys­ical secur­ity; and misin­form­a­tion, disin­form­a­tion, and malin­form­a­tion (MDM). Through this work, the agency has built strong rela­tion­ships with thou­sands of state and local offi­cials to respond to elec­tion secur­ity threats. CISA’s efforts resul­ted in “the most secure elec­tions in Amer­ican history” in 2020.

Build­ing on these efforts, CISA should hire elec­tion secur­ity special­ists to help regional direct­ors in each of the 10 CISA regions across the coun­try. Currently, CISA regional direct­ors are respons­ible for too broad a range of secur­ity person­nel and issue areas to meet the needs of more than 8,000 elec­tion offi­cials nation­wide. The agency already has a range of special­ists to serve specific needs in areas such as cyber­se­cur­ity, protect­ive secur­ity, chem­ical secur­ity, and emer­gency commu­nic­a­tion. Adding elec­tion special­ists to their profes­sional person­nel would increase CISA’s effect­ive­ness in this area. 

Import­antly, elec­tion special­ists would have the know­ledge to address specific elec­tion secur­ity concerns and the capa­city to do affirm­at­ive outreach to elec­tion offi­cials on CISA products. Special­ists would also be in the posi­tion to learn what threats elec­tion offi­cials are facing at the state and local levels and which protect­ive prac­tices are work­ing. They could then compile this inform­a­tion and share best prac­tices with elec­tion boards and offi­cials across the coun­try to help enhance secur­ity meas­ures.

Partly as a result of increased threats and polit­ical pres­sure, a large number of talen­ted elec­tion offi­cials with connec­tions and trust in the wider elec­tion offi­cial community have already retired or intend to retire in 2022. Many would form an excel­lent pool of applic­ants for these posi­tions.

CISA should lever­age its rela­tion­ship with the Center for Inter­net Secur­ity to help protect elec­tion offi­cials and fight against elec­tion misin­form­a­tion and disin­form­a­tion

CISA already part­ners with the Center for Inter­net Secur­ity (CIS) to oper­ate the Multi-State Inform­a­tion Shar­ing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) and the Elec­tions Infra­struc­ture Inform­a­tion Shar­ing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC), which monitor for cyber threats to state and local govern­ments. Through a cooper­at­ive agree­ment, CISA funds CIS to be a crit­ical resource for cyber threat preven­tion, protec­tion, response, and recov­ery for state, local, and tribal elec­tion offices.

Util­ize outside services for doxing protec­tion 

CISA should use its exist­ing part­ner­ship with CIS to help protect elec­tion work­ers against the threat of doxing. While elec­tion offi­cials and work­ers are indeed public employ­ees, bad actors are reveal­ing personal inform­a­tion about their private lives, like their home addresses, their license plate numbers, and even the cell phone numbers of their kids. 

One solu­tion to defend against doxing is to work with external organ­iz­a­tions that provide anti-doxing protect­ive services. A small number of juris­dic­tions, for example, contract with outside providers that help scrub person­ally identi­fy­ing inform­a­tion for offi­cials, conduct monthly checks to ensure that inform­a­tion does not return, and offer tailored guid­ance on how to protect personal inform­a­tion in the future. However, most elec­tion offices do not have the resources to purchase such services for key staff.

We do not believe CISA can or should provide such services directly to elec­tion offi­cials (as it would entail gain­ing access to elec­tion work­ers’ personal inform­a­tion). But with addi­tional fund­ing, CISA could facil­it­ate this assist­ance by amend­ing its current agree­ments with CIS and allow­ing it to fund local elec­tion offi­cials to contract for anti-doxing services.

Provide CIS with resources to lever­age part­ner­ships and share MDM data with EI- and MS-ISAC 

During the 2020 elec­tion, CIS partnered with the Elec­tion Integ­rity Part­ner­ship (EIP), a group that respon­ded to and analyzed voting-relat­ing MDM, partic­u­larly on social media. EIP iden­ti­fied MDM trends and repor­ted incid­ents to CIS to ensure that all federal stake­hold­ers were aware and could take appro­pri­ate action.

The CIS-EIP part­ner­ship was crit­ical to dispelling MDM during the 2020 cycle and will be equally crit­ical for the upcom­ing elec­tion cycles. Congress should provide CISA with the resources needed to ensure that this part­ner­ship can continue and that CIS can use the EI- and MS-ISACs to circu­late inform­a­tion gained from that part­ner­ship.

CISA should be given addi­tional resources to expand Cross­feed

Finally, the federal govern­ment should make it a prior­ity to fund an expan­sion of CISA’s Cross­feed program this year.

In 2020, CISA collab­or­ated with Defense Digital Service to launch Cross­feed, a tool that collects data from a vari­ety of public-facing resources and data feeds to give state and local govern­ments a full picture of the weak­nesses that attack­ers might find in their cyber infra­struc­ture. CISA has used the program to monitor and warn state and local elec­tion offi­cials about seri­ous vulner­ab­il­it­ies in their elec­tion infra­struc­ture. 

The cyber­se­cur­ity program should now be further expan­ded to proact­ively monitor public aspects of state and local office infra­struc­ture and be used to check for weak­nesses in other elec­tion-specific tech­no­logy. CISA could also offer Cross­feed services to elec­tion vendors, campaigns, and other elec­tion-related entit­ies to strengthen elec­tion secur­ity across the board.

DOJ Should Increase Outreach and Cooperation with Local Election and Public Safety Officials

In July 2021, DOJ launched a law enforce­ment task force “to address the rise in threats against elec­tion work­ers, admin­is­trat­ors, offi­cials, and others asso­ci­ated with the elect­oral process.” The announce­ment was an import­ant signal that DOJ recog­nized the risks that elec­tion offi­cials were facing and was will­ing to dedic­ate the resources neces­sary to hold the perpet­rat­ors of these acts account­able, while prevent­ing similar activ­ity in the future. The task force has already made two arrests related to threat­en­ing govern­ment offi­cials. 

While this task force repres­ents a signi­fic­ant step forward in protect­ing elec­tion offi­cials, more needs to be done to gain the trust and support of local elec­tion offi­cials and ensure that these offi­cials receive the help they need when they exper­i­ence threats, harass­ment, and viol­ence.

DOJ’s Elec­tion Threats Task Force should hire a senior advisor with exist­ing rela­tion­ships in the elec­tions community to improve outreach to local elec­tion offi­cials and raise aware­ness of its efforts

In the Bren­nan Center survey, 42 percent of local elec­tion offi­cials surveyed said that they have never heard of the DOJ’s task force, and another 48 percent said that they have heard of it but did not know much about the effort. Just nine percent said that they were very famil­iar with the DOJ’s Elec­tion Threats Task Force. 

These numbers suggest that the task force must expand outreach to local elec­tion offi­cials and raise aware­ness of its efforts. And there is reason to believe such focused outreach would reap results. After hear­ing an explan­a­tion of the task force, 57 percent of respond­ents said that they were some­what or very confid­ent that the task force’s invest­ig­a­tion and prosec­u­tion of threats against elec­tion offi­cials would make them feel safer in their role as an elec­tion offi­cial. Simply learn­ing about the task force will provide a boost in confid­ence, which is sorely needed in an envir­on­ment where more than half of local elec­tion offi­cials who have been threatened because of their jobs did not even report the threat to law enforce­ment.  

CISA faced similar chal­lenges after former DHS secret­ary Jeh John­son desig­nated elec­tion infra­struc­ture as crit­ical infra­struc­ture in 2017. This desig­na­tion let CISA provide free cyber­se­cur­ity services and support to state and local elec­tion offi­cials. However, many offi­cials were unfa­mil­iar with CISA and leery of federal over­reach. After what elec­tion offi­cials described as a “rocky start,” CISA hired a former elec­tion offi­cial with bipar­tisan long-term rela­tion­ships in the community to serve as a senior advisor. Today, CISA enjoys wide­spread support and aware­ness. Former CISA director Chris­topher Krebs has said hiring the senior advisor was among the most effect­ive steps in CISA’s work with state and local elec­tion offi­cials.

DOJ should bring on a similar senior advisor to the task force. This person could lever­age exist­ing rela­tion­ships to boost aware­ness of the task force and its work, help manage elec­tion offi­cial rela­tion­ships, and provide inform­a­tion and expert­ise about elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion. This senior advisor could also help the task force navig­ate and map the elec­tions community’s exist­ing rela­tion­ships, formal and informal, with other federal agen­cies such as the EAC and CISA. 

DOJ’s Elec­tion Threats Task Force should expand to include state and local law enforce­ment 

When elec­tion offi­cials report threats to law enforce­ment, the federal govern­ment is rarely their first call. The Bren­nan Center survey found that 89 percent of local elec­tion offi­cials who repor­ted a threat to law enforce­ment contac­ted local law enforce­ment, compared to 22 percent who contac­ted federal law enforce­ment. (A small percent­age repor­ted threats to both.)

The Bren­nan Center’s 2021 report on threats to elec­tion offi­cials recom­men­ded that DOJ lead a national task force that included repres­ent­a­tion from federal, state, and local law enforce­ment. This task force would support the invest­ig­a­tion and prosec­u­tion of wrong­do­ers and provide proact­ive advice on how to keep elec­tion offices and polling places safe. The report poin­ted to DOJ efforts such as the Enhanced Collab­or­at­ive Model Task Force to Combat Human Traf­fick­ing as a poten­tial model for what a compre­hens­ive response could look like.

Formal inclu­sion of local law enforce­ment would allow the task force to identify threat patterns that indi­vidual local law enforce­ment agen­cies may not be able to see in isol­a­tion. It would likely help local law enforce­ment (the main contact for most elec­tion offi­cials) better respond to such threats. It may enable DOJ to bring crim­inal actions when there are no possible state actions. It would ease DOJ’s refer­ral of cases when charges would be more easily made at the state or local level. And it likely would boost aware­ness of the task force since local elec­tion offi­cials are far more likely to have pre-exist­ing rela­tion­ships with local sher­iff or police depart­ments.

DOJ should engage CISA and the EAC to lead train­ings on elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion for DOJ and FBI staff

Elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion has become increas­ingly complex over the past decade. A basic under­stand­ing of how elec­tions work, along with the safe­guards built into the system, would bene­fit agents and staff tasked with protect­ing offi­cials and the elec­tion process. It would also help build trust in these staff among the elec­tions community. 

DOJ should engage CISA and the EAC to lead train­ings on elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion for DOJ and FBI staff with elec­tion-related respons­ib­il­it­ies. Because of its extens­ive work strength­en­ing elec­tion infra­struc­ture, CISA has exist­ing elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion train­ing mater­i­als for their staff and exper­i­ence conduct­ing similar train­ings for other federal agen­cies. And as the desig­nated federal clear­ing­house for best prac­tices, the EAC would also be a good source for train­ing mater­i­als and instruct­ors, partic­u­larly after bring­ing on several former local elec­tion offi­cials since 2020.

DOJ should desig­nate offi­cial protec­tion as an area of emphasis in outreach for the Byrne-JAG program grants

Earlier this year, DOJ clari­fied that the Byrne-JAG program grants can be used by state and local govern­ments to “deter, detect, and protect against threats of viol­ence against elec­tion work­ers, admin­is­trat­ors, offi­cials, and others asso­ci­ated with the elect­oral process.” The Bureau of Justice Assist­ance should offi­cially desig­nate elec­tion offi­cial protec­tion as an area of emphasis and encour­age state and local juris­dic­tions to direct funds to this purpose in grant soli­cit­a­tions and other resources sent to applic­ants. 

The EAC Should Build Out a Training Hub for Election Officials and Invest in Streamlined Testing and Certification Programs

As the national clear­ing­house and resource center for elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion, the EAC has been crit­ical to ensur­ing that voting systems meet secur­ity guidelines and that states receive the fund­ing and resources Congress provides through its HAVA grants. The agency is respons­ible for shar­ing best prac­tices on effect­ive admin­is­tra­tion and for dissem­in­at­ing inform­a­tion about laws, tech­no­lo­gies, proced­ures, and data related to admin­is­ter­ing federal elec­tions. 

Despite its crucial role, the EAC has not been given the resources neces­sary to meet the rising needs of state and local elec­tion juris­dic­tions — the agency’s budget has remained about the same since 2010, adjus­ted for infla­tion. At a minimum, Congress should provide more fund­ing to the EAC to facil­it­ate better elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion across the coun­try.

The EAC should build out a hub for train­ing, guid­ance, and inform­a­tion shar­ing to elec­tion offices with turnover and staff­ing short­ages

As threats and harass­ment take their toll on elec­tion offi­cials, some are leav­ing the profes­sion alto­gether, and many more are concerned about future staff­ing short­ages. Nearly a third of elec­tion offi­cials in the Bren­nan Center survey said they know elec­tion work­ers who have left because of these and related concerns, and three in five said that they are concerned that threats, harass­ment, and intim­id­a­tion will make it more diffi­cult to retrain or recruit elec­tion work­ers in future elec­tions. In total, one in five elec­tion offi­cials say they are likely to leave their job before the 2024 elec­tion.

With high turnover in elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion lead­er­ship and local offices stretched thin, the EAC can play an import­ant role in shar­ing insti­tu­tional know­ledge and ensur­ing new staff get best prac­tices up and running quickly. The agency has already created multiple publicly avail­able digital resources and provided services for voters and elec­tion offi­cials. The EAC has, for example, released guid­ance on topics such as post-elec­tion audits and chain of custody prac­tices, provided elec­tion offi­cials no-cost online cyber­se­cur­ity train­ing, co-hosted national tabletop elec­tion secur­ity train­ing exer­cises with CISA, and worked with CISA to release an elec­tion secur­ity profile tool inten­ded to help juris­dic­tions identify and help mitig­ate risks to their elec­tion system.

Elec­tion offi­cials need the EAC to build on this work and be a more compre­hens­ive cent­ral hub for elec­tion-related resources, guid­ance, and services elec­tion offices need to protect work­ers, serve voters, and run elec­tions. The EAC should cent­ral­ize already exist­ing and avail­able federal resources for elec­tion offi­cials and develop addi­tional guid­ance on how to address the novel chal­lenges that elec­tion offi­cials are facing, with a focus on resources that can be quickly adap­ted by elec­tion offi­cials to meet the needs of their indi­vidual juris­dic­tions.

The EAC should improve its capa­city for certi­fy­ing and test­ing voting equip­ment and other elec­tion tech­no­logy

To strengthen public confid­ence in elec­tions and ensure elec­tion offi­cials are work­ing with secure tech­no­logy, the EAC should also build out its capa­city to certify voting equip­ment in a timely manner and offer regu­lar assur­ance to elec­tion offi­cials that their equip­ment contin­ues to meet the latest cyber­se­cur­ity stand­ards.

Twenty-four states, home to 41 million registered voters, are using voting machines that are over a decade old, putting the equip­ment at or near the end of its life cycle. Twenty-three states are using voting machines that are no longer manu­fac­tured, making it diffi­cult for elec­tion offi­cials in these states to service and find replace­ment parts for their equip­ment. And six states are still using paper­less voting equip­ment.

Though insuf­fi­cient fund­ing is the largest driver of this wide­spread outdated equip­ment, many states and local juris­dic­tions have also delayed purchases while wait­ing for new voting machines that are certi­fied to the EAC’s latest stand­ards released just last year — the first fully updated voting system guidelines since 2005.

As the EAC imple­ments and over­sees the certi­fic­a­tion of voting equip­ment to these latest guidelines — and contin­ues to test and certify addi­tional elec­tion tech­no­logy such as elec­tronic poll­books — it must ensure timely reviews and updates of guidelines, invest in stream­lined test­ing, and build out a more robust qual­ity monit­or­ing program so that states can use the newest, most reli­able, and most secure tech­no­logy every elec­tion.

It is import­ant to note that although the EAC received a $3 million increase in its budget for FY22, this fund­ing is not nearly enough to build and imple­ment the sugges­tions mentioned here. Over the long term, the federal govern­ment needs to estab­lish a govern­ment-wide approach to fund­ing elec­tions and elec­tion secur­ity as a crit­ical part of the coun­try’s infra­struc­ture. Pres­id­ent Biden’s FY 2023 budget, which recom­mends a 50 percent increase for the agency’s budget, would be a signi­fic­ant improve­ment in the future. For now, Congress should, at a minimum, grant the addi­tional funds neces­sary to build out the EAC’s capa­city in a mean­ing­ful manner.

The EAC should expand over­sight of voting system vendor secur­ity

More than 80 percent of voting systems in use today are under the purview of three vendors. A success­­ful cyber­­at­tack against any of these compan­ies could have devast­at­ing consequences for elec­­tions in vast swaths of the coun­­try. Yet these vendors, unlike those in other sectors that the federal govern­­ment has desig­n­ated as crit­ical infra­­struc­ture, receive little or no federal review. 

In a previ­ous report, we recom­men­ded that the EAC adopt Volun­tary Voting System Guidelines that outline best prac­tices for vendors as they relate to cyber­se­cur­ity, person­nel prac­tices, foreign control, and supply chain integ­rity. In the mean­time, the EAC should strengthen manu­fac­turer regis­tra­tion stand­ards by requir­ing each vendor that parti­cip­ates in the test­ing and certi­fic­a­tion program to disclose all entit­ies or persons with greater than five percent owner­ship and to provide writ­ten policies regard­ing the company’s compli­ance with cyber­se­cur­ity, person­nel secur­ity, and supply chain secur­ity best prac­tices. 

Moreover, the EAC should develop addi­tional remed­ies for vendors that fail to meet the require­ments of the test­ing and certi­fic­a­tion program. Currently, the agency’s responses are primar­ily limited to the decer­ti­fic­a­tion of voting equip­ment or the suspen­sion of manu­fac­tur­ers from the program — both drastic meas­ures that could have far-reach­ing consequences for states. The agency should develop inter­me­di­ary actions such as proba­tion­ary peri­ods, which would draw public atten­tion to the vendor’s fail­ures to comply while offer­ing the oppor­tun­ity to remedi­ate errors before more seri­ous penal­ties are enacted.

The White House and Federal Agencies Must Take Steps to Protect Our Election Workers and Infrastructure Against New Threats

Even before 2020, there were many new chal­lenges facing elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion in the United States. Those chal­lenges have only grown since, with several disturb­ing new threats to both elec­tion work­ers and elec­tion infra­struc­ture emer­ging in the last two years. Ideally, Congress would respond with legis­la­tion and an infu­sion of new finan­cial support for elec­tion admin­is­trat­ors who must protect the integ­rity and fair­ness of our elec­tions going forward. While the need for congres­sional action is press­ing, exec­ut­ive agen­cies have an import­ant part to play as well.

We urge every federal agency with a role in elec­tions (includ­ing, but not limited to the three agen­cies discussed in this resource) to explore new actions they can take to support state and local elec­tion admin­is­trat­ors in their work. The White House will play a crit­ical role in coordin­at­ing this work, even though it does not have direct author­ity over some of those agen­cies (such as the EAC, which is an inde­pend­ent agency).