Election security experts at the Brennan Center for Justice released a new guide June 5 on how to protect elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically calling attention to existing resources from Federal agencies and the need for more Federal funding.
The Brennan Center officials wrote that the document seeks to help election officials revise their cyber resiliency plans leading up to the general election in November, specifically in areas that require “heightened attention” such as websites and online registration tools. While the document provides advice and resources specific to election security during the pandemic, the experts argue that more Federal funding will ultimately be a crucial to running safe and secure elections come November.
“The recent primaries show us that demand for absentee ballots is off the charts,” Gowri Ramachandran, co-author of the report, said. “Election officials see what’s ahead. They’re planning for these surges to keep our democracy humming without major glitches. But they must have Federal funding to turn those plans into reality.”
When it comes to securing remote election offices, the Brennan Center recommends that election officials follow the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s Guide to Enterprise Telework, Remote Access, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security. Election officials should be using two-factor authentication and be trained on how to avoid phishing attacks, among other steps, the guide states.
The Brennan Center also advises officials to be well-prepared for both voter registration system and voting equipment outages and failures by backing up information periodically, working with IT personnel to build in preventative measures, and developing procedures to manage and track system status. Beyond the center’s own recommendations for preventing cyberattacks, the guide directs readers to review resources from agencies such as the Election Assistance Commission and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as they look ahead to November.
“Deploying or scaling up new voting options can increase the risk of technical malfunctions, but officials have no choice in the current environment but to meet the challenge,” the guide states.