A new report released by the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice says states will need additional federal funding to protect state and local election systems from cyber threats posed by nation-state actors ahead of the 2020 election.
According to the document, Congress allocated $380M in grant funds through the Help America Vote Act in 2018 to help states improve their election security. The Elections Assistance Commission projects that states will spend 85 percent of the alloted grant funds ahead of the U.S. presidential elections.
“Unfortunately, given the myriad security challenges faced by these states, the $380 million isn’t enough to address the needs of state and local offices; many have substantial election security needs that likely won’t be met absent additional federal support,” the report notes. The report focused on six states – Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania – and analyzed how they allocated their 2018 HAVA grants as well as their unfunded security needs.
For instance, Alabama’s federal election security grant and state matching funds totaled $6.5M in 2018. The state has appropriated funds to support four projects: voter registration database updates and maintenance, computer equipment replacement and upgrades, post-election audits and efforts to address cyber vulnerabilities.
Election officials from Alabama also identified two unfunded projects aiming to safeguard the elections and those are the development of a “cyber navigator program” and legacy voting equipment replacement. The document was authored by experts from the Brennan Center for Justice, the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, R Street Institute and the Alliance for Securing Democracy.