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May 8, 2018

CSG Partners With Democracy Fund to Address State Election Cybersecurity Concerns

LEXINGTON, KY—To help states address election cybersecurity concerns, The Council of State Governments has partnered with the Democracy Fund to create an advisory group of state and local government officials and experts in cybersecurity, information technology, and election administration, as well as other stakeholders.
“Election cybersecurity is an increasingly complex and important concern for state officials at all levels of government and across various departments and agencies,” said Kamanzi Kalisa, who leads election policy efforts at CSG. “The news has been dominated by stories of attempted cyber breaches by bad actors, which threatens to destabilize our election systems, the bedrock of our democracy.”
In 2016, the media reported on a number of election cybersecurity incidents around the country, including the attempted penetration of the voter registration system in Arizona and the breach of voter data in Illinois. While none of the election rolls of those states were affected, the incidents exposed a lack of response protocols and communication strategies among state agencies responsible for information technology and elections. Without a protocol or a communications strategy, valuable time can be lost addressing a breach and communicating the problem to other stakeholders and the public. Equally serious is the impact a chaotic response, with its accompanying confusion, will have on the public’s faith in the election system.  
"Defending our democracy from meddling and undue influence has never been more important, and election administration is the front line," said Tammy Patrick, senior adviser for the elections program at the Democracy Fund. 
The Democracy Fund has devoted more than $1.4 million in grants to organizations supporting the state and local election officials who ensure elections are not only secure but also accessible to all eligible citizens.
 "CSG provides a unique opportunity for all three branches of state government to work together to ensure that state laws, policies and procedures protect the integrity of the electoral process," Patrick said. "CSG's voting initiatives have a track record of effectively convening state and local election officials to tackle the big issues facing our voters. From military and overseas voters to technological efficiencies, they have provided practical recommendations to improve the voting experience of millions. I feel that they will be equally successful with this challenge."
The advisory group will guide CSG’s efforts throughout the project, and will play a key role in hosting a consortium in mid-year 2018. 
“The consortium will be unique because it will provide an opportunity for state officials from different agencies and branches to come together and have a candid, open conversation about election cybersecurity,” Kalisa said. “We hope this will provide a starting point for states as they struggle with these questions and start to break down some of the communication barriers within states, between states and between state, federal and local players.”
Eight states, two from each of CSG’s four regions, will be invited to participate in the project. Each state’s delegation will include, at a minimum:
During a consortium meeting in summer 2018, attendees will hear from election administration, information technology and cybersecurity experts, as well as local and state colleagues, to learn about problems surrounding election cybersecurity and state solutions and best practices. Interspersed throughout the event, each delegation will meet and work with a skilled facilitator to determine the actions to be taken during a cyber breach, the agencies or offices responsible for those actions, and strategies for explaining the breach to the media and public.
Observations and lessons learned from these facilitated sessions will be distilled into a toolkit that any state can use to map a communications plan for an election cybersecurity breach. The toolkit will be made available at csg.org in November 2018.
An overview of the CSG Election Cybersecurity project is available here. If you would like to learn how your state can participate in the project, contact Jessica Kirby at jessica.kirby@csg.org.


The Council of State Governments is our nation’s only organization serving all three branches of state government. CSG is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy. This offers unparalleled regional, national and international opportunities to network, develop leaders, collaborate and create problem-solving partnerships.