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Cyber-brief: State-by-State Election Security Plans and Priorities

Published: Jan 30, 2019

Edited by Michael Martelle

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202-994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

Cyber-brief: State-by-State Election Security Plans and Priorities

Election security has been a pressing issue since the 2016 elections due to concern over foreign interference in the election and possible cybersecurity risks.

According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Web site:

"On Friday, March 23, 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 into law. The Act included $380 million in grants, made available to states to improve the administration of elections for Federal office, including to enhance technology and make certain election security improvements. The2018 HAVA Election Security Fund, authorized under Title I Section 101 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, marks the first new appropriations for HAVA grants since FY2010. This funding will provide states with additional resources to secure and improve election system."

Each 2018 HAVA Election Security Fund recipient, including 54 states and territories, published plans for the grant’s use. Below is a graphic representation of the general categories of planned expenditure by state. Training and personnel (37 states), voter registration systems (33), and voting hardware upgrades (32) were the most common categories, while tabletop exercises (12), system audits (8), and election night reporting security (5) were the least common.

The graphic highlights the disparity among state approaches to election security. While some states were able to pursue a variety of initiatives, several states only invested in one or two categories. This reflects the disparities in state election infrastructure and the effects of aging infrastructure on state ability to invest in comprehensive cybersecurity. A number of states spent the totality of their HAVA grants on replacing voting machines over any other initiative. These differences are further highlighted within the scope of the state narratives; for example, some of the upgrades categorized under election bureaucracy software and hardware upgrades are replacing systems over a decade out of date.

Reporting planned spending in each category is difficult due to inconsistent budget templates as states added or removed categories from their budgets as fit their needs. Items not included in state “cybersecurity” spending (such as voting hardware or voter system improvements) arguably pertains to election cybersecurity, and the “other” category is often used as an ambiguous catch-all for any initiative outside of personnel, equipment, county grants, or trainings. Further, some line items made it impossible to distinguish budgets for individual efforts from one another (e.g., software patching, licensing costs, hardware upgrades, and software development all falling into “equipment”; tabletop exercises falling into “training”).

  Election Bureaucracy Upgrades Infrastructure Upgrades   Auditing & Verification  
  Upgrading Software Upgrading Computer Hardware Access Control Training & Personnel Replacing Voting Hardware Voter Reg. Database Election Night Reporting Security County / Local Awards Election Audits System Audits / Vulnerabilities Assessment Consulting Tabletop Exercises Information Sharing / Communications
Alabama                          
Alaska                          
American Samoa                          
Arizona                          
Arkansas                          
California                          
Colorado                          
Connecticut                          
Delaware                          
District of Columbia                          
Florida                          
Georgia                          
Guam                          
Hawaii                          
Idaho                          
Illinois                          
Indiana                          
Iowa                          
Kansas                          
Kentucky                          
Louisiana                          
Maine                          
Maryland                          
Massachusetts                          
Michigan                          
Minnesota *                          
Mississippi                          
Missouri                          
Nebraska                          
Nevada                          
New Hampshire                          
New Jersey                          
New Mexico                          
New York                          
North Carolina                          
North Dakota                          
Ohio                          
Oklahoma                          
Oregon                          
Pennsylvania                          
Puerto Rico                          
Rhode Island                          
South Carolina                          
South Dakota                          
Tennessee                          
Texas                          
Utah                          
Vermont                          
Virgin Islands                          
Virginia                          
Washington                          
West Virginia                          
Wisconsin                          
Wyoming                          
  13 15 26 37 32 33 5 17 21 15 8 12 14