While several aspects in the electoral system may be at risk, election officials at the Federal and state level agreed that cyberthreats have routinely and at larger numbers attacked voters’ confidence in the system with the spread of misinformation.

Misinformation and disinformation about election systems and officials are demoralizing and take a tremendous amount of time and effort to combat. Judd Choate, the elections director for the state of Colorado, said during NextGov’s Election Security Summit on Nov 3, he and his team find themselves spending a significant amount of time playing defense against this misinformation and not enough time building up systems to fight off possible attacks.

“We are getting hundreds of calls regarding misinformation. And a lot of the time, we find ourselves playing defense because there really is a limit in the things that we can do,” Choate said.

Yet, according to Choate, partnerships with nonprofit organizations and Federal agencies like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have “created this incredible infrastructure to try and secure our election systems against these cyber threats.”

“We have to protect not just against the exploits that will impact elections but also the exploits that will have the perception of impacting elections, like the spread of misinformation or disinformation,” Geoff Hale, the director for CISA’s Election Security Initiative, said. “We want to remain vigilant and secure or systems but also defend against cyber threats attacking voters’ confidence in our systems.”

Additionally, officials built up their already built-in safeguards to secure election systems such as voter registration databases and voting devices, especially after the attempted attacks during the 2016 elections. CISA has deployed solutions to safeguard against cyber threats at scale so that state and local election officials can implement them.

However, Hale alludes to challenges in implementing these solutions on the state and local levels. Some counties do not have the necessary resources or workforce to implement these safeguards risking election security.

“When you have counties with small teams of election officials, implementing these solutions to safeguard systems becomes really challenging. This is where Federal funding could help these counties to safeguard their systems,” Hale said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.