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An U.S. Election Assistance Commission blog written by former Commissioner Matthew Masterson

Recently there has been a lot of coverage regarding both election system and voting system security.

Sep 06, 2016

The Reality of Election Security

Recently there has been a lot of coverage regarding both election system and voting system security.  While some of the stories failed to capture the election official perspective many, particularly local stories, did a great job capturing the facts behind the election process. Here are just a few examples:


As you listen and read these articles three themes emerge quickly:

Election officials are aware of the threats, do not take them lightly and are constantly adapting their processes to address new and emerging threats.
Layers of security are built in throughout the process.  From chain of custody, to access control, to logging, to auditing election officials work diligently to secure each part of the process.
Threats differ based on the type of system discussed.  The risks to the voting systems are not the same as the ones to the voter registration (VR) system.  Voting systems are not connected to the internet, are tested at the federal, state and local level (before each election), are monitored throughout the process and in most jurisdictions are audited.  The threat to actual votes is less because of these steps and the decentralized nature of the systems. 

VR databases because of their network connection require a different set of security steps.  Officials monitor logs, have intrusion detection software, take nightly backups so the lists can be restored, and regularly evaluate new cyber threats to ensure the security of the lists. 

Voting systems and VR systems are not the same, do not have the same threat profiles and need to be discussed in that way. 

Moving forward the EAC is continuing to work with all levels of government to ensure that election officials have the information they need to secure the process moving forward as new risks emerge and election officials adapt.