Election Officials See A Range Of Threats In 2024, From Hostile Countries To Conspiracy Theorists | EUROtoday

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ATLANTA (AP) — For election officers getting ready for the 2024 presidential election, the record of safety challenges simply retains rising.

Many of the considerations from 4 years in the past persist: the potential for cyberattacks focusing on voter registration methods or web sites that report unofficial outcomes, and gear issues or human errors being amplified by these searching for to undermine confidence within the end result.

Add to that the contemporary dangers which have developed because the 2020 election and the false claims of widespread fraud being unfold by former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies. Death threats directed at election staff and breaches of voting gear inside election workplaces have raised questions on security and safety. Some states have altered their voting and election legal guidelines, expanded legislative management of native elections and added penalties for election staff who violate guidelines.

The turmoil has contributed to a wave of retirements and resignations amongst election workers, making a vacuum of institutional data in some native election workplaces.

With Trump operating once more and already warning that the 2024 vote is “on its way to being another rigged election,” election staff are bracing for a tough yr that may don’t have any margin for error.

National safety specialists have warned for years that international governments — primarily Russia, China and Iran — wish to undermine the U.S. and see elections as a pathway to do it.

In 2016, Russia sought to intrude with a multi-pronged effort that included accessing and releasing Democratic emails and scanning state voter registration methods for vulnerabilities. Four years later, Iranian hackers obtained voter knowledge and used it to ship deceptive emails.

In 2022, there have been a number of situations by which hackers linked to Iran, China and Russia related to election infrastructure, scanned state authorities web sites and copied voter data, in line with a current declassified report.

While there was no proof of any compromises affecting the integrity of U.S. elections, specialists say these international locations are extra motivated than ever given tensions throughout the globe.

“Election 2024 may be the first presidential election during which multiple authoritarian actors simultaneously attempt to interfere with and influence an election outcome,” Microsoft warned in a November risk evaluation.

The firm stated it was unlikely that Russia, China and Iran would sit out subsequent yr’s contest as a result of the “stakes are simply too high.” The report stated Russia stays “the most committed and capable threat to the 2024 election,” with the Kremlin seeing subsequent yr’s vote as a “must-win political warfare battle” that would decide the end result of its warfare in opposition to Ukraine.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, stated she believes international adversaries have a “greater incentive than ever before” to become involved within the upcoming elections.

“We’re going to do everything we can to be prepared, but we are facing well-funded, serious adversaries, and that requires all of us to be clear-eyed about those challenges ― and for voters to also know that there are foreign actors that want to influence their vote to further their own goals and not America’s,” she stated.


Many of the conspiracy theories which have continued since Trump misplaced the 2020 presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden relate to voting know-how and claims that gear was manipulated to steal the vote. There is not any proof of manipulation, and the methods have safeguards to detect issues.

An intensive effort has been underway for a number of years to construct defenses round voting machines and tabulators and develop plans to get better if tampering happens. Experts are significantly involved about non-voting methods equivalent to voter registration databases, digital ballot books and web sites that report outcomes as a result of they depend on web connections.

Experts have warned {that a} well-timed assault, maybe utilizing ransomware that locks up computer systems till funds are made or methods are restored from backups, might disrupt election operations.

Many native election workplaces have been shifting their methods off countywide networks to guard them, however not all have. In early September, election officers in Hinds County, Mississippi, had been getting ready for statewide elections when all the pieces got here to an abrupt halt.

Workers within the election workplace had been unable to entry their computer systems for about three weeks. The breach of the county’s computer systems induced a slight delay in processing voter registration kinds and pushed again coaching for ballot staff.

Local election workplaces, significantly in rural areas, typically wrestle to safe sufficient funding, personnel and cybersecurity experience. Hinds County Election Commissioner Shirley Varnado stated it was a “wonderful idea” to have their election workplace networks separated from the county however would take cash they don’t have.

“That should be done, but we’re in a building without heat or air,” she stated.

Election integrity teams say extra must be performed and level to a collection of voting system breaches because the 2020 election which have resulted in proprietary software program being distributed amongst numerous Trump allies. They desire a federal investigation and for authorities to pressure anybody with copies at hand them over.

They additionally fear about technical failures, noting an incident final November by which some votes in a Pennsylvania judicial race had been flipped. The prevalence of false election claims has made it tough to boost legitimate criticisms, stated Susan Greenhalgh, a senior adviser on election safety with Free Speech For People, a left-leaning nonprofit targeted on election and marketing campaign finance reforms.

“Our election system is not perfect,” Greenhalgh stated. “There are a lot of things that need to be and should be improved.”

Improvements because the 2016 election, by which Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton, embrace changing outdated and weak voting machines that lacked paper information of each vote solid. In 2020, an estimated 93% of ballots solid nationwide produced a paper file, up from 82% 4 years earlier.

After 2016, election methods had been added to the record of essential infrastructure within the U.S. that additionally consists of dams, banks and nuclear energy crops.

In 2018, Congress established the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which offers safety evaluations. CISA Director Jen Easterly launched a cyber protection initiative in 2021 and final summer season stated 10 new regional election safety advisers can be employed to work straight with native election workplaces.

“There’s just been so much that has transformed the face of election infrastructure security over the past seven years,” Easterly stated in an interview final August. “In a space where people can sometimes get pretty down, I think we should be optimistic.”

Larry Norden, an election skilled with the Brennan Center for Justice, stated he sees “massive progress” but additionally stated turnover in native election workplaces has diminished institutional data.

Just 29% of native election officers surveyed this yr for the Brennan Center had been conscious of CISA routine vulnerability scans, and simply 31% had been conscious of the company’s bodily safety assessments.

“There was not nearly as much awareness of the services that are offered as I think there should be,” Norden stated. “It’s not surprising, but it means there’s work to do.”

Staffing has lengthy been a problem for native election workplaces, which depend on each everlasting and short-term staff, together with those that workers some 80,000 polling areas nationally on Election Day.

But 2020 was a tipping level, with coronavirus pandemic-related challenges earlier than the presidential vote and all the pieces that adopted: loss of life threats, a flood of data requests from election skeptics, hostile county boards and new legal guidelines that impose fines or felony penalties on election officers for violating guidelines. That contributed to a wave of retirements and resignations amongst election officers. Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson stated two-thirds of county clerks there are new because the 2020 election.

“This all combines into this perfect storm,” stated Henderson, a Republican. “It’s a real challenge.”

Insider threats — the likelihood that somebody working in an election workplace might tamper with methods or present entry to them — poses one other concern. To tackle this, election officers have been boosting safety round key gear by limiting entry and including surveillance cameras.

Meanwhile, the threats and harassment have continued. Georgia’s Fulton County, a goal of assorted 2020 election conspiracy theories, was one in all a number of election workplaces in November despatched envelopes containing a powdery substance that in some circumstances examined optimistic for fentanyl.

The letters are one other reminder of the charged setting surrounding U.S. elections heading into 2024. Despite all of the challenges, Henderson stated election officers are doing all the pieces they’ll to arrange.

“When you have a human-run system, there will be human error. That’s just part of it,” she stated. “But we’re working hard to make sure that we mitigate those human errors and mitigate the risks and continually improve our processes so that people can have the confidence that when they vote, only eligible voters are voting, and when they vote, their votes count accurately.”

Follow the AP’s protection of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024.