National Academies Press: OpenBook

Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy (2018)

Chapter: 6 Analysis of Systemic Issues

« Previous: 5 Ensuring the Integrity of Elections
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

6

Analysis of Systemic Issues

In this chapter, the committee discusses election administrator and poll worker training, the voting technology marketplace, and the federal role in elections.

ELECTION ADMINISTRATOR AND POLL WORKER TRAINING

Overview and Analysis

Proper training of election administrators is a key component in ensuring well-run elections and in the mitigation of disruptions in the voting process.

Voting jurisdictions in the United States come in many sizes. Fully one-third are small towns with small budgets, part-time and volunteer staff, and limited access to information technology (IT) expertise. Between and during elections, staff generally have other responsibilities (e.g., recording deeds, issuing licenses, etc.). In most locations, poll workers have minimal training. They work intermittently during election cycles, often only on Election Day.

In larger jurisdictions, election administrators supervise larger staffs who may have attended some continuing education classes on election management offered by other in-state organizations of local public officials or the state election authority. In-service groups such as The Election Center,1 along with national organizations of public officials, offer profes-

___________________

1 See https://www.electioncenter.org/.

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

sional certificate programs in election administration. Auburn University, the University of Minnesota, and Kennesaw State University (Georgia) offer undergraduate and graduate courses in election management.2 Courses include an introduction to the election process, election design, data analysis, voter participation, and strategic management. Courses in cybersecurity are beginning to be offered. Although some jurisdictions (e.g., Los Angeles County and New York State) now require training certification for election workers, there are no national accrediting standards for an election management curriculum at universities or community colleges.

Modern elections are more complex and consequently require election administrators with more specialized skills. Training and education programs in election administration are limited, and there are scant resources available to professionalize the election workforce. Many election administrators receive only minimal professional education and training beyond on-the-job experience. Increasing technical and management challenges require staff with more advanced qualifications and training, and it may be necessary to bring skilled people from other disciplines (including but not limited to IT and cybersecurity) into election administration. This reality may necessitate a review of hiring practices by election administrators.

Because most election administrators have other responsibilities, time and access to education and training opportunities are limited. Tight municipal and county budgets compound these constraints. Cross-institutional cooperation may provide a means of lowering barriers to better training and education in those communities with limited resources.

State and local election administrators are highly dependent on system vendors to install and maintain election systems, and they do not have access to the most comprehensive and current resources for implementing, checking, and making enhancements to the IT supporting their election systems.

Findings

There is a need to develop the professional election workforce in ways that enable it to handle new challenges in election administration.

There are growing gaps in election administrators’ information technology skills, in their ability to access skilled IT professionals, and in their ability to detect, prevent, and respond to cyberattacks.

___________________

2 Hale, Katherine, Auburn University, presentation to the committee, December 8, 2017, Denver, CO.

Further, the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) is establishing an “Election Commons” through which schools can collaborate on course development and cross-registration in election administration offerings. See http://www.naspaa.org/students/InternshipSum17_ElectionAdministration.pdf.

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. 6.1 Congress should provide adequate funding for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to continue to serve as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration.
  2. 6.2 The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, with assistance from the national associations of state and local election administrators, should encourage, develop, and enhance information technology training programs to educate state and local technical staff on effective election administration.
  3. 6.3 Universities and community colleges should increase efforts to design curricula that address the growing organizational management and information technology needs of the election community.

THE VOTING TECHNOLOGY MARKETPLACE

Overview and Analysis

The 2000 presidential election was the impetus for a national transition from mechanical to electronic voting machines and from manual to automated processes. The election thrust the shortcomings of punch card voting technology into the spotlight and exposed a need for more reliable voting systems. As part of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), Congress authorized the allocation of $3 billion to the states, primarily for the purchasing of new voting technology.3 HAVA also created the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an independent entity that would “serve as a national clearinghouse and resource for the compilation of information and review of procedures with respect to the administration of Federal elections”4 and develop “voluntary voting system guidelines.”5 The EAC was responsible for administering HAVA funds.

The infusion of HAVA funding led to the development and deployment of new voting machines, and in particular, a more widespread deployment of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) devices.The EAC reports that, “through September 30, 2015, a total of $3,247,294,645 has been made

___________________

3 See HAVA Section 101. In addition to upgrading voting systems, states were to use HAVA funds for the purposes of “improving the administration of elections for Federal office;” “educating voters concerning voting procedures, voting rights, and voting technology;” “training election officials, poll workers, and election volunteers;” and “improving the accessibility and quantity of polling places, including providing physical access for individuals with disabilities, providing nonvisual access for individuals with visual impairments, and providing assistance to Native Americans, Alaska Native citizens, and to individuals with limited proficiency in the English language.”

4 See HAVA, Part 1, Election Assistance Commission.

5 See HAVA Part 3, Section 221.

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

available to the 50 States, American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands (hereinafter referred to as States) under HAVA” and that “States have reported total expenditures of $3,197,438,400 or 89 percent of total Federal funds and accrued interest available” to them.6 Looked at another way, “36 of 55 (65 percent) states and territories in the US have less than 10 percent of their originally allocated HAVA funds left (including interest) and another 14 states and territories (25 percent) have less than half of their funding left.”7

HAVA provided much-needed funding for improved voting technology. However, at the time the Act was passed, available machines had flaws related to both security and operational aspects. For instance, DRE machines did not produce a means for voter verification and did not adequately address the needs of the disabled community. Furthermore, HAVA provided only a one-time infusion of funds. There were no provisions to provide funding for the replacement of voting machines in the future, and to satisfy statutory requirements, many states made significant equipment purchases at the onset of funding. The conduct of elections is, however, an ongoing (and evolving process) and periodic infusions of funding do not allow for a consistent program of improvements.

“The depletion of the HAVA funds has significant implications today, as the systems deployed as a result of HAVA are nearing the end of their useful life and need to be replaced. The service life of most new voting hardware and software purchased and installed immediately after the passing of HAVA is 10-15 years, and states now lacking HAVA funds have to go to extraordinary lengths to keep their aging systems operational.”8

“The election technology industry has come to be characterized by a consolidated, highly concentrated market dominated by a few major vendors, where industry growth and competition are constrained.” “The firms in the election technology industry sell integrated voting solutions, typically including a package of hardware, software, services and support. The industry has a two-tier structure with . . . Election Systems and Software (“ES&S”), Hart Intercivic (“Hart”) and Dominion Voting Systems,” the largest vendors, in the top tier.9 In the second tier, a few small firms provide

___________________

6 U.S. Election Assistance Commission, “Annual Grant Expenditure Report, Fiscal Year 2015,” p. 2, available at: https://www.eac.gov/assets/1/28/Final%20FY%202015%20Grants%20Report.pdf.

7 See University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School Public Policy Initiative, “The Business of Voting: Market Structure and Innovation in the Election Technology Industry,” 2016, p. 12, available at: https://publicpolicy.wharton.upenn.edu/live/files/270-the-business-of-voting.

8 Ibid, p. 13.

9 Ibid, pp. 14-15. From this tier, the committee received testimony from Hart InterCivic. ES&S and Dominion Voting Systems declined to make presentations to the committee.

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

specialized technology (e.g., for the disabled) or serve small markets.10 The largest voting technology vendor, ES&S, has about 460 employees. The customer base for voting machines is fragmented, and purchasers have widely varying levels of technological and purchasing expertise. Furthermore, buying power is limited for all but the largest customers.

The price of voting machines is usually not made public, and costs vary depending on factors such as the number of units purchased, the vendor chosen, and whether or not maintenance agreements are also purchased. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) estimates that the cost of a DRE voting machine ranges from $2,500 to $3,000 per unit, exclusive of peripherals such as voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) and accessibility features. NCLS estimates that the cost per unit for precinct optical scanners ranges from $2,500 to $5,000 and that the cost of a central count optical scanner ranges from $70,000 to $100,000.11 “The Brennan Center estimates it could cost well over $1 billion to replace all of the voting machines that should be replaced in the next few years.”12

Some election administrators are exploring alternatives to the current private-sector, for-profit marketplace for election systems. Several jurisdictions are exploring the development of open-source or publicly-owned voting systems that use commercial off-the shelf (COTS) hardware in an effort to reduce both the initial cost and ongoing software maintenance costs associated with proprietary systems.

The usual model of open-source software is that with a license, a user has access to the source code and can read, use, or modify it in accordance with the license.13 Widely used open source software is normally maintained by an organization that provides documentation and distribution sites. Any software developer can propose software changes and modifications, which are vetted by one or more experts, who integrate the changes into the distributed software. Hence the organization creates a kind of standardization, for users whose individual modifications are limited. The transparency provided by the availability of source code increases confidence that the software functions as intended. The participation of the user community aids software quality (since problems are publicly identified and

___________________

10 From this tier, the committee received testimony from Everyone Counts, the Five Cedars Group, Free & Fair, and Democracy Live.

11 National Conference of State Legislatures, “Voting Equipment,” available at: http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/voting-equipment.aspx.

12 Norden, Lawrence and Christopher Famighetti, Brennan Center for Justice, America’s Voting Machines at Risk, 2015, p. 17, available at: https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/Americas_Voting_Machines_At_Risk.pdf.

13 Most license agreements specify that users maintain the openness of the software they acquire, provide acknowledgement of use in a product, and respect the licenses of components that come from other organizations; some require that modifications also be shared.

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

corrected) and continuously improves the software base. Since the software itself has only nominal cost, revenue comes from providing support and enhancements. The cost of entry to the provider market is low, enabling competition that tends to drive down costs.14

Since 2005, for instance, the Travis County (TX) Clerk has been studying how to improve the security and efficiency of electronic voting systems while making incremental changes in existing processes to anticipate and effectively confront emerging threats. Travis County collaborated with experts in computer science, cryptography and computer security, statistics, and human factor engineering to build a voting system to resolve concerns about electronic voting. That system, STAR Vote (Secure, Transparent, Auditable, Reliable), was designed to offer the speed and accuracy of electronic voting as well as advantages for voters with disabilities. It also provided a paper ballot selection summary for recount and audit purposes.

STAR Vote offered end-to-end-verifiable (E2E-V) elections and included support for risk-limiting audits with enhanced voter privacy. The system would have offered two paper record proofs. One provided a record of a voter’s selections. This was deposited into a ballot box at the polling place. The precinct ballot counter matched an electronic copy of the marked ballot stored in the ballot-marking device to the paper record inserted into the ballot box. Ballots with stray marks or those that did not match the electronic version of the ballot were rejected. The second paper record was a receipt with a hash code that the voter retained. Following an election, the voter could access an online bulletin board to verify that the code printed on his or her receipt was included in a list of codes representing all ballots tallied.

A Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking entities to build STAR Vote was issued in late 2016, and proposals were submitted by prospective vendors early in 2017. However, the proposals received were not sufficient to build a complete voting system, and Travis County was unable to pursue the building of STAR Vote.15

In 2009, the Los Angeles (LA) County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk launched the Voting System Assessment Project (VSAP) project when it determined that no system on the market was adequate to meet the needs of the electorate in LA County (the project was later renamed Voting Solutions for All People, as it changed focus from assessment to implementation). The project is working to design and launch a new voting system for the county. The goals of VSAP are to implement publicly owned voting sys-

___________________

14 While the cost of entry to the provider market is low, open-source systems need to be maintained, and this maintenance is typically provided by vendors at a cost.

15 DeBeauvior, Dana, “STAR Vote – A Change of Plans,” September 26, 2017, available at: www.traviscountyelections.org. Ms. DeBeauvoir is a member of the committee that authored the current report.

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

tems; spur innovation in the voting system market; encourage a regulatory environment that allows for the development, certification, and implementation of publicly owned, voter-centered systems; establish LA County as a new model for voting system development and implementation; and make research findings available for other jurisdictions to utilize and replicate the LA County design process where desired.16 Currently, VSAP is developing a vote tally system, conducting a vote center placement assessment, and soliciting for system manufacturing and certification.17

Prime III is voting software developed at Auburn University in 2003 through a public-private partnership.18 The system was designed to be “a secure, multimodal electronic voting system that delivers the necessary system security, integrity and user satisfaction safeguards in a user-friendly interface that accommodates all people regardless of ability.”19 Currently, Prime III is the only open-source voting system that has been used in state, federal, and local elections. In 2015, New Hampshire adopted Prime III and renamed it One4All. The One4All system was used in 2016 primaries as well as the presidential election.20

In the voting marketplace, the STAR vote proposal, the VSAP project, and the Prime III system are all possible bases for an open-source software base. In this setting, jurisdictions, singly or collectively, would have to assume the costs and time associated with the certification of their open-source voting system.21

Public-private partnerships could spark innovation in the voting technology marketplace. Creating a partnership with academia might generate innovations in the voting technology marketplace. The ES&S ExpressVote

___________________

16 Bennett, Kenneth and Monica Flores, County of Los Angeles County (CA) Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, presentation to the committee, December 7, 2017, Denver, CO.

17 Circa December 2017. LA County has since indicated that the system will run on an open-source platform as opposed to open-source software. In June 2018, a contract was awarded to Smartmatic to assist the county with the development, manufacturing, and implementation of the system.

18 The partnership included the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Auburn University, Clemson University, and the University of Florida. Dr. Juan E. Gilbert, who serves as a member of the committee that authored the current report, was a developer of Prime III.

19 See http://www.primevotingsystem.com/.

20 New Hampshire Assistant Secretary of State Tom Manning stated, “The old system required us to pay a little bit less than $250,000 a year in licensing fees for the software that ran in [sic] and then the telephone lines that we needed to connect to our data center would run us about $10,000 a month.” See Ganley, Rick and Michael Brindley, “Tablet-Based Ballot System for Blind Voters to Debut During N.H. Primary,” New Hampshire Public Radio, February 8, 2016, available at: http://nhpr.org/post/tablet-based-ballot-system-blind-voters-debut-during-nh-primary#stream/0.

21 See “The Business of Voting: Market Structure and Innovation in the Election Technology Industry,” pp. 32-33.

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

Universal Voting System is an example of a product that resulted from a public-private partnership between ES&S and the Prime III team of academic researchers.

Developing open interfaces between systems can provide opportunities for component-based systems where the components are from different suppliers, and Common Data Formats (CDFs) have been developed to facilitate interoperability. Electronic products used by election officials must be able to share data between devices (or with a common host) if they are to be part of an integrated election administration process. As the “data language” used by such products tends to be proprietary, devices from one manufacturer might not be able to communicate with products from another manufacturer. Election officials may, therefore, need to purchase all their election systems from a single vendor.22

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is currently developing a CDF for election systems.23

Findings

There is a lack of dedicated funding for new voting systems. Elections funding competes with other state and local programs, and election funding may not receive high priority.

The high cost of maintenance agreements and the bundling of system hardware, software, and services limits election administrators’ flexibility with regard to future purchases of voting systems. The expense of purchasing electronic voting systems or purchasing enough extra inventory of paper, optical scan ballots (and resources to secure them) to satisfy the needs of vote centers or early voting programs is not affordable for many local jurisdictions.

Great strides have been made to reform the voting system certification process. Compliance is voluntary and standard setting is difficult, but the efforts of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology should be applauded.

A standard national certification process would help to increase competition among voting technology vendors.

The relatively small and underfunded market for voting technology presents an obstacle for new entrants and may inhibit the use of the latest devices in election administration.

___________________

22 National Institute of Standards and Technology, “An Introduction to the Common Data Format Project,” available at: https://collaborate.nist.gov/voting/bin/view/Voting/WhyIsACDFNeeded.

23 See National Institute of Standards and Technology, “The NIST Interoperability Public Working Group and Common Data Format (CDF) for Election Systems Project,” available at: https://www.nist.gov/itl/voting/interoperability.

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

The structure of the current election technology marketplace provides limited incentives for technological innovation.

There are alternatives to the current private-sector, for-profit marketplace for election systems.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. 6.4 Congress should:
    1. create incentive programs for public-private partnerships to develop modern election technology;
    2. appropriate funds for distribution by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for the ongoing modernization of election systems; and
    3. authorize and appropriate funds to the National Institute of Standards and Technology to establish Common Data Formats for auditing, voter registration, and other election systems.
  2. 6.5 Along with Congress, states should allocate funds for the modernization of election systems.
  3. 6.6 The U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology should continue to collaborate on changes to the certification process that encourage the modernization of voting systems.
  4. 6.7 The National Institute of Standards and Technology should complete the Common Data Format standard for election systems.
  5. 6.8 New election systems should conform to the Common Data Format standard developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

THE FEDERAL ROLE

Overview and Analysis

As noted in previous chapters, elections in the United States are administered in a decentralized fashion. States and local jurisdictions carry out the primary functions and processes associated with federal and state elections. States and local jurisdictions, consequently, assume responsibility for the majority of expenses associated with election administration.

The federal government has, however, a legitimate role to play in election administration. The U.S. Constitution gives the federal government ample authority to regulate elections, and over the past 50 years, Congress has exercised federal authority in many contexts. The Elections Clause (Article I, Section 4, Clause 1) of the Constitution specifies that the states will determine the “Times, Places, and Manner” of congressional elections,

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

and allows Congress to “make or alter” states’ regulations. Moreover, each amendment to the Constitution that prevents discrimination in voting rights—the 15th Amendment (race), the 19th Amendment (sex), the 24th Amendment (poll taxes), the 26th Amendment (age)—grants Congress the power “to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” Likewise, the 14th Amendment, which the Supreme Court has interpreted to provide protection for voting rights even for groups beyond those specifically enumerated by those other amendments and to protect against other undue burdens on the right to vote, contains similar enforcement provisions.

Congress has exercised its constitutional authority to regulate elections in a range of contexts. One of the earliest pieces of election-related legislation was passed by Congress in 1842. It required that each representative be elected by a separate district.24 Soon after, in 1845, Congress chose a single date for all national elections—the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.25 As discussed in Chapter 4 (see pp. 55-56), Congress has used its authority to regulate the mechanics of elections ever since.

The federal role in elections has increased over time in response to issues of national concern. With each effort for greater national uniformity in elections or federal voting rights protection, concerns about localism and state sovereignty are raised. Elections continue to be administered by states and localities, often against a backdrop of federal regulations that ensure protection of voting rights. Nevertheless, great variation exists among states in certain basic components of the electoral process. This diversity is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the quality of election administration can vary based on where a voter lives. On the other, the lack of a single national voting system may offer some protection against widespread compromise of the results of an election. That limited protection may be negated, however, when attackers can use comprehensive data analysis to target voting jurisdictions that can change the outcome of an election.26

When exercising federal authority, the government has recognized that, while election administration is primarily a state and local responsibility, there are occasions where the federal government should play a leading role by providing resources that will nudge election administrators in certain

___________________

24 The Act, the Apportionment Act of 1842, states that, “in every case where a State is entitled to more than one Representative, the number to which each State shall be entitled under this apportionment shall be elected by districts, composed of contiguous territory, equal in number to the number of Representatives to which said State may be entitled; no one district electing more than one Representative.”

25 Prior to this time, Congress allowed states to conduct presidential elections at any point in the 34 days before the first Wednesday in December—the meeting of the state electoral colleges.

26 Potential attackers could use such data to target those jurisdictions that are deemed easiest to compromise.

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

directions (e.g., to upgrade election technology) or that will provide access to intelligence information pertinent to national security.

The federal government also has a role to play in ensuring the resilience of the nation in the face of cyberattacks. As noted throughout this report, protecting America’s election infrastructure became a national security concern in the wake of Russian cyber efforts to target U.S. voting databases and systems. These efforts prompted the federal government, through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to designate election infrastructure as a subsector of the existing Government Facilities critical infrastructure sector, placing it on par with sectors such as banking and electricity. This designation prioritized for the first time the protection of election systems as a national security issue, identified DHS as the lead federal agency to coordinate with state and local officials, and provided states with access to government national security information.

The critical infrastructure designation was met with resistance in the elections community. Immediately after the nation’s election systems were given critical infrastructure status, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) issued a statement wherein it asserted that

No credible evidence of hacking, including attempted hacking of voting machines or vote counting, was ever presented or discovered in any state. State and local autonomy over elections is our greatest asset against malicious cyberattacks and manipulation. Our decentralized, low-connectivity electoral process is inherently designed to withstand such threats.

“While we recognize,” the statement continued, “the need to share information on threats and risk mitigation in our elections at all levels of government, as we did throughout the 2016 cycle, it is unclear why a critical infrastructure classification is now necessary for this purpose.”27 NASS provides further clarification on its website:

While NASS members recognize the need to share information on threats and risk mitigation in our elections at all levels of government, Secretaries of State oppose the critical infrastructure designation based on the federal government’s continued lack of transparency and clarity with chief state election officials on plans for implementing the designation.28

However, the critical infrastructure designation only allows DHS to provide support to “the private sector and state, local, tribal, and territorial

___________________

27 National Association of Secretaries of State, “NASS Statement on Critical Infrastructure Designation for Elections,” January 9, 2017, available at: https://www.nass.org/node/228.

28 National Association of Secretaries of State, “Elections as Critical Infrastructure: What Does It Mean?,” available at: https://www.nass.org/initiatives/election-cybersecurity.

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

governments in the management of their cyber risk” and “provide technical assistance in the event of a cyber incident, as requested.” The department can provide (1) “automated, recurring scans of Internet facing systems that provide the perspective of the vulnerabilities and configuration errors that a potential adversary could see;” (2) “penetration testing, social engineering, wireless access discovery, database scanning, and operating system scanning;” (3) “alerts, analysis reports, bulletins, best practices, cyber threat indicators, guidance, points-of-contact, security tips, and technical documents to stakeholders;” (4) “regionally located personnel who engage state and local governments, election crime coordinators, and vendors to offer immediate and sustained assistance, coordination, and outreach to prepare and protect from cyber and physical threats;” and (5) access to “cybersecurity operations centers that maintain close coordination among the private sector, government officials, the intelligence community, and law enforcement to provide situational awareness and incident response, as appropriate.”29

As discussed in Chapter 1, Congress created the EAC to serve as a clearinghouse for election administration research and information and to award federal funds to allow states to replace antiquated voting systems and to improve election administration. A full commission has four members, and currently there are two vacancies. Importantly, any action of the Commission authorized by HAVA requires approval of at least three of its members. Federal funding for the EAC is currently less than $10 million/year and includes funds for transfer to the National Institute of Standards and Technology for election reform administration activities.

Although there are strong efforts by research groups and nonprofit organizations to gather data to inform election-related decisions and legislation, additional work is needed. The federal government has a role in sponsoring (1) research that distinguishes beliefs about election issues from evidence-based understanding; and (2) pilot programs to explore novel solutions to problems identified in Chapters 4 and 5. Broad statistics on voting patterns, the effect of by-mail voting, the effect of various factors on voter turnout, and other questions need to be refined to reflect particular regions and socioeconomic factors. The influence of technological advances such as machine learning and data mining on the elections system needs to be better understood. Though the conduct of elections is largely delegated to the states, the federal government has a responsibility to sponsor research that protects the integrity of elections.

___________________

29 Hale, Geoffrey, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, presentation to the committee (Slides 4 and 7), April 4, 2017, Washington, DC, available at: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/cs/groups/pgasite/documents/webpage/pga_178365.pdf.

Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×

Findings

There is no centralized election body that establishes rules for national elections or reports the results of national elections.

The decentralized character of U.S. election administration provides a check against a widespread technological breakdown or cyberattack. At the same time, it increases the number of potential vectors of attack against election administration, many of which are small jurisdictions that are under-resourced to respond adequately to modern cyber-risks.

The range and heterogeneity of local statutes and election administration challenges prevent implementation of a single uniform voting system across the country.

There is no central location wherein problems (e.g., long lines, malfunctioning machines, etc.) arising on Election Day are reported, compiled, and analyzed.

The federal government has increased its involvement in the administration of national elections in response to serious system concerns.

While funds allocated under HAVA were critical to the improvement of elections, without sustained federal funding, jurisdictions may be unable to purchase equipment that is easy to use, accessible, secure, and reliable.

The nature of threats to election systems is changing as state and non-state actors attempt to undermine election systems through cyber and information warfare.

Addressing foreign government assaults on election databases and systems require new approaches and better federal-state collaboration. States and local governments do not have an independent ability to protect election infrastructure against nation-state attacks.

The designation by DHS of election systems as a subsector of the existing government facilities critical infrastructure sector is correct and appropriate. This designation reflects appropriately the need for sophisticated technical expertise and sharing of intelligence information required to protect the nation’s election infrastructure.

The EAC has a vital role to play in improving election administration.

The federal government has an important role to play in understanding the impact of technological changes on the conduct of elections and in evaluating possible remedies to election threats.

RECOMMENDATION

  1. 6.9 To improve the overall performance of the election process:
    1. The president should nominate and Congress should confirm a full U.S. Election Assistance Commission and ensure that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has sufficient members to sustain a quorum.
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
  1. Congress should fully fund the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to carry out its existing functions.
  2. Congress should require state and local election officials to provide the U.S. Election Assistance Commission with data on voting system failures during elections as well as information on other difficulties arising during elections (e.g., long lines, fraudulent voting, intrusions into voter registration databases, etc.). This information should be publicly available.
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 107
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 108
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 109
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 110
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 111
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 112
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 113
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 114
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 115
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 116
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 117
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 118
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 119
Suggested Citation:"6 Analysis of Systemic Issues." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25120.
×
Page 120
Next: 7 Securing the Future of Voting »
Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $50.00
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

During the 2016 presidential election, America’s election infrastructure was targeted by actors sponsored by the Russian government. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy examines the challenges arising out of the 2016 federal election, assesses current technology and standards for voting, and recommends steps that the federal government, state and local governments, election administrators, and vendors of voting technology should take to improve the security of election infrastructure. In doing so, the report provides a vision of voting that is more secure, accessible, reliable, and verifiable.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!