2016-11-04 National Governors Association

Governors Confident In Election Systems

WASHINGTON—National Governors Association (NGA) Chair Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Vice Chair Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval released a statement today on the security of states’ election systems:

“We are writing to affirm governors’ confidence in our nation’s electoral process. Recent reporting by media outlets has cast doubt on the security of computer-based systems used to store voter registration data, record votes and tabulate ballots. NGA works daily with state officials, election administrators and cybersecurity experts who, for many years, have worked diligently to secure our election systems against disruption or compromise. Those partnerships and our close study of any potential problems have reinforced our certainty that this election will fully and accurately reflect the choices voters make.

NGA recently gathered hundreds of state, federal and private sector experts from across the country for a cybersecurity summit in Boston, Massachusetts. A major focus of the summit was the confidentiality of voter data and the integrity of computer-based voting. Our discussions there found that:

  • Our nation’s electoral process is decentralized and largely administered at the local level. States store voter data using a variety of methods, and voting districts that use computer-based voting use a wide range of systems; and
  • Election officials are well aware of potential vulnerabilities—they have confronted the prospect of cyber attacks for more than a decade. States and localities routinely test the cybersecurity of election systems during sessions open to the public. Many have also sought additional assistance from the Department of Homeland Security. Although no security precautions can completely eliminate risk, paper records are less vulnerable to manipulation and can be used to verify results.

Of course, states and voting districts should institute standard best practices and institute short-term precautions to counter any perceptions that computer-assisted voting threatens the democratic process.

NGA recently published a summary of simple and effective measures. For example, officials should consider backing up registration data and electronic poll books with paper copies or compact discs. Basic practices in computer security, such as updating old software on laptops used at polling stations, is not costly and can be accomplished in little time.

NGA is uniquely positioned to understand state, local and federal perspectives on election security. We remain confident that any technical problems on election night will not undermine the overall integrity of the process.”