Election Security 2020: The Final Week’s News Roundup – GovTech


As we head closer to Nov. 3, 2020, in the U.S., these are unprecedented times for election security for many reasons.

First, the attempted hacking incidents surrounding the 2016 election created a four-year race to improve voting cybersecurity, including people, process and technology components.   

Second, a record number of people have already voted early via mail or in person. As of Friday, Oct. 30, over 80 million votes have already been cast.

Third, numerous physical and cyberthreats are surfacing in virtually every state.

The list goes on and on, but I can think of no better way to characterize the election security situation at this time than to provide a quick news roundup from media organizations around the country.  

Most experts believe we are on the right track and that all will go well regarding the election processes and procedures, delivering a fair and accurate count over the next week, but some people are not so sure.

Here, I have tried to include concerns and risks that have been surfaced in the final days before the election with references to news outlets from the left, center and right of the political spectrum. There is no doubt that fears regarding election security are coming from all parts of society.

 

Almost On Election Eve: Election Security News Roundup

Today.com: “4 former homeland security secretaries speak out on election security

National Public Radio: Voters’ Guide To Election Security In The 2020 Presidential Campaign

WSBT.com: Michigan leaders assure voters of election security

Voices will count and voices will be heard — that’s the message from Michigan leaders as we approach Election Day.

State officials are confident in the security and accuracy of the election process.

The Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General want Michiganders to have faith in the system because they say protocols are in place to ensure all valid votes will count.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says there are secure protocols in the system to handle the record-breaking voter turnout — and the election results accurately reflect the will of the people. But she urges patience because clerks can’t tabulate the large volume of absentee ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day. 

 

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USA Today: “Fact check: Joe Biden misspoke about his campaign’s voter protection efforts

Fox News: “DNI Ratcliffe, FBI say Iran, Russia attempting to interfere with 2020 election

Noting that his agency was responsible for investigating election crimes, FBI Director Christopher Wray vowed to take action in order to ensure the integrity of U.S. elections. He said that Americans should be “confident” that their votes count.

“We are not going to let our guard down,” he added.

 

Click2houston.com: “Election security task force watching for any potential voting issues in Harris County

WEAU.com: “Local officials warn about attempts to hack election security

One local county is reassuring the community that despite an alert of a potential threat it received this month, it is confident the election will be secured.

“You definitely want to go towards the targets that don’t have the funds and the resources to fight back. That’s the danger for an organization such as ours, we just don’t have the IT muscle and budget to be able to respond as quickly as maybe some of the bigger cities and communities,” explained Robertson.

The most concerning part for Robertson, the unofficial results that are posted by the county getting tampered with.”

 

MyNorthwest.com: “With over 2 million ballots now in, Washington doubles down on election security

We want to make sure our voters have the right information so they can participate in this election,” Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman said.

Wyman detailed state and local efforts to ensure that election security is strong, and not just when it comes to warding off hacking attempts.

 

Fox9.com: “Security company that sought armed election security in Minnesota appears in court

CBSnews.com: “‘We remain on high alert’: Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf talks election security

InCyberDefense.com: “When You Vote Be Sure to Check Your Election Security

It is citizens’ responsibility to understand the potential for manipulating online content and verifying any dubious information directly with the local election commission if changes of polling locations or voting hours are posted. Additionally, users should understand deepfakes, technology can be used to manipulate images, audio or videos. This is another illustration of the importance of user verification with a reliable source before assuming something seen or heard on the internet is true. 

 

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HSToday.com: OIG: DHS Election Security Plans Do Not Address Terrorism Threats and Other Risks

Threatpost: “Election Security: How Mobile Devices Are Shaping the Way We Work, Play and Vote

The increasing usage of mobile devices has numerous upsides, such as greater engagement and higher voter turnout. But this should only be happening if mobile security is part of the greater election-security plan. The Vote Joe app was a prime example of a campaign app that had significant security flaws. A bug was discovered in the app that allowed malicious actors to see a voter’s home address, date of birth, gender, ethnicity and party affiliation.

 

The-Journal.com: Southwest Colorado election officials give vote of confidence in election security

WQAD.com: Social media emerges as top issue for Iowa election and security officials

ErieNewsNow.com: State Officials Review Preparations to Ensure Election Security

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and Pennsylvania Director of Homeland Security Marcus Brown recently met with Pennsylvania’s three U.S. Attorneys and FBI agents from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to review security and preparations for the Nov. 3 general election. 

According to Pa. Dept. of State officials, federal, state and local authorities are working together to ensure a safe, secure and accurate election. Agencies from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), all 67 Pa. counties, and many other state and federal security and elections partners are also part of the massive effort. 

 

WCVB.com: “Walsh: Boston putting unprecedented planning into election security

Tallahassee.com: “Florida failed to spend $10 million for election security, COVID-19 protection at polls

With days to go, Florida has failed to spend more than $10 million designated for election security, COVID-19 protection at the polls and a surge in mailed ballots.

A large piece of that pie is $3.5 million that Secretary of State Laurel Lee requested from the Legislature earlier this year for the state’s 67 county supervisors of elections to shore up their systems.

The counties didn’t ask for that money. And it remains unspent, sitting in a state account as unbudgeted reserve.”

 

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Wall Street Journal: “States Prepare for Possible Voter Intimidation, Violence Around Election Day

Officials in states being closely contested this election say they are working with law-enforcement agencies to guard against potential voter intimidation and any threats posed by armed groups or individuals.

Jim Lane, the Republican mayor of Scottsdale, Ariz., said the potential for unrest has driven improved coordination between law-enforcement agencies, from municipal to county and state police. That coordination, while routine, is at a higher level “probably this year more than ever before,” Mr. Lane said.

The concerns are shared by state and local officials of both parties. Philadelphia’s district attorney, a Democrat, said he is beefing up an election task force to investigate potential complaints about voter intimidation. Some 80 prosecutors and detectives will be detailed to the task force on Election Day.

 

What’s the Problem With Vote By Mail?

Final Thoughts

We have reached the “final exam” regarding election security for 2020, and the tension is high. I have been covering this election security issue for more than four years, going back to this article in March 2016 asking if the election could be hacked. However, I have never seen this level of public interest and concern.

As I said in this podcast, I remain optimistic on election security overall, but worry the most if the voting result is very close in key battleground states. Will the state processes stand up to close scrutiny if national attention becomes focused in a few places?   

Meanwhile, so much has happened, and is now happening, regarding voting that it is simply impossible to keep up with every story and consider all the various ramifications of potential election security incidents.

Nevertheless, here are a few items to remember as we head into the election:    

  • First, and foremost, please vote.
  • Stay informed regarding your specific state situation.
  • Stay safe. COVID-19 is a real health threat in most communities.

I am sure we will be back to this topic at some point in the future to analyze next steps.  

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