By Patrick R. Potyondy
What do Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota all have in common? In addition to being Western, largely rural states, each sent legislators to Cheyenne, Wyo., to attend the Elections Security: States Teaming Up meeting hosted by NCSL
Fifteen state legislators from these five related states attended the meeting. Attendees also included three state election directors, a state chief information officer, and legislative staff. The lawmakers tuned in from the moment the meeting started to the final review of policy options, as they engaged with each other and the numerous experts who presented.
Presenters from the Defending Digital Democracy Project (D3P) out of Harvard’s Belfer Center kickstarted the meeting sessions, after an introductory tour of the local Laramie County elections office. The D3P experts offered 10 best practices, which included items such as two-factor authentication, audits and building public trust. “Having a security communications plan is just as important as having security plans,” said D3P’s Caitlin Conley.
Dan Volkosh, of the Denver Elections Division, covered the human element in cybersecurity, and delighted in pointing out the too many, too human foibles that can lead to digital disasters for an elections office. He stressed, among other pointers, two-factor authentication and locking your computer when you walk away from it. Volkosh’s policy is that “if we’re on defense, we’re too late.”
Katy Owens Hubler of Democracy Research and Maurice Turner of the Center for Democracy and Technology covered voter registration systems, the process of voting itself, and results reporting. Owens Hubler led discussion among the legislators on possible policy options to the issues and questions raised during each section. And Turner, like Owens Hubler, excelled at making complex issues understandable to the differing technology comfort levels of the room. One of Turner’s key takeaways included two-factor authentication.
Finally, a panel composed of the state election directors from Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, as well as North Dakota's chief information officer, advised on a range of issues concerned with upholding voter confidence in the elections system—a point that cannot be overemphasized in today’s digitized world.
Oh, and did I mention two-factor authentication yet? Because if I fail to, I’m pretty sure I would hear from the folks at Defending Digital Democracy and the Center for Democracy and Technology.
You can find all the great resources covered at the regional meeting at our Elections Security: States Teaming Up resource page.
Patrick Potyondy is a Mellon-ACLS public fellow and a legislative policy specialist with NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.