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Election Security

Have you ever wondered how state and county election officials secure elections?

The Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) collaborates with federal and state law enforcement partners to remain vigilant on current and emerging threats that may impact elections.

At both the state and local level, in conjunction with experts from the state and federal Departments of Homeland Security, Center for Internet Security, and other key partners, Pennsylvania is employing extensive measures to stay one step ahead of any threats to our infrastructure.  These measures include comprehensive monitoring and assessment of risk, fortification of physical and cyber security, employing mitigation actions for issues identified, providing training and resources to partners, and increasing communications at all levels.

Election Security in Pennsylvania

We all value the integrity and security of our elections, and want assurance that our votes are secure and accurate, particularly following reports on attempted interference in our election process. While our voting system and network security are very strong in Pennsylvania, the commonwealth and county boards of elections are vigilant in monitoring and assessing any potential vulnerabilities, and we regularly take comprehensive additional measures to make our elections more secure. Here are some of the many ongoing steps being taken to ensure that our systems remain safe and secure:

Protecting Our Voting Systems

  • All certified voting systems in Pennsylvania, including the election management system and vote-tallying components, are never connected to or permitted on internet-facing networks, which significantly decreases opportunities to be hacked.

  • Counties strictly secure their voting systems. Every county election board inspects and tests each piece of voting and tabulating equipment before an election and places locks with tamper-evident seals on all voting machine access points.

  • A layered set of protections are in place to secure voter registration database.

  • Continuous monitoring of the commonwealth’s technical environment means alerts are reviewed and acted upon quickly.

  • The Department of State directed all PA counties to select new voting systems with voter-verified paper ballots by the end of 2019, to ensure that Pennsylvania voters are voting on the most secure, accessible, and auditable equipment available.

Engaging in Strategic Data Sharing

  • Pennsylvania works with CIS’s Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) to gather and share intelligence about cyber threats (such as website defacement) that target government or government-affiliated systems.

Developing and Maintaining Crucial County Partnerships

  • In 2017, DOS formed an election security workgroup of County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) representatives, county election directors, DOS staff, and county and state IT directors to discuss security issues, share training resources, and conduct security self-assessments to assess each participating county’s security posture.

Providing Ongoing Training Opportunities

  • DOS co-hosted a free webinar in April 2018 in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the state Office of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Center for Internet Security (CIS), and other experts, for state and county election and IT personnel.

  • DOS staff has participated in nationally recognized election cybersecurity trainings, including a table-top training exercise hosted by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Election security video prepared by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission also prepared a video to summarize the measures employed by state and local election officials across the nation to safeguard elections, voter registration data, voting systems, and more. As you’ll see, a lot goes into election preparation, but it’s worth protecting the democratic process.

 EAC Election Security Video