The NCSL Blog


By Wendy Underhill

Legislators wear two hats. First, there’s the lawmaker’s hat, which they wear the minute they walk into the capitol building and many times outside it as well. Second, there’s the campaigner’s hat, when they’re making their case for re-election to their constituents.

lock on keyboardIn that second role, they’re probably working with no IT support and possibly little information about how to protect their emails, websites and databases from hackers.

Now there’s help. The Defending Digital Democracy program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government issued last week its Cybersecurity Campaign Playbook.

DDD is a brand-new, pop-up program, with senior fellows Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades setting a bipartisan tone. Mook was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in 2016; Rhoades was Mitt Romney’s campaign manager in 2012.

They may have differing political perspectives, but their common experience dealing with cyberattacks to their campaigns gives them common ground: A desire to get the message out that campaigns large and small must do all they can to protect themselves from cyberattacks. In other words, they’re both committed to helping defend digital democracy. 

DDD’s description says: “Foreign nations and non-state actors are not backing down in their efforts to hack, alter the outcome and undermine confidence in our elections.” Hence, the playbook.

A similar playbook for election administrators is due out in early 2018. In the meantime, read NCSL’s elections newsletter, The Canvass, for more on what legislators can do when they’re wearing their lawmaking hat to defend our states’ elections against cyber intrusions.

Wendy Underhill is the director of NCSL’s elections and redistricting program. 

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.