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Experts: COVID-19 has increased risks, costs for November election

By
Don Jacobson
An electronic voting machine is seen during Tuesday's primary election in Washington, D.C. Friday's report says securing November's election will be costly due to coronavirus-related revenue cuts. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
An electronic voting machine is seen during Tuesday's primary election in Washington, D.C. Friday's report says securing November's election will be costly due to coronavirus-related revenue cuts. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

June 5 (UPI) -- The election in November faces an increased threat of cyberattacks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, experts said in a report Friday.

The New York University Brennan Center for Justice said in a 29-page report "Preparing for Cyberattacks and Technical Problems During the Pandemic" the necessity of changing work rules and providing new voting options due to the pandemic -- especially during a presidential election -- will present new risks of cyberattacks and technical malfunctions.

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"Many government personnel must work and access election infrastructure remotely now; so too must vendor personnel," the report states. "These changes to work environments, if not properly managed, could create new targets for those interested in disrupting American elections through cyberattacks."

Likewise, it adds, the health crisis means many more voters will opt to cast ballots by mail, but election officials still must maintain in-person polling for those with disabilities and poor mail service.

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"Deploying or scaling up new voting options can increase the risk of technical malfunctions, but officials have no choice in the current environment but to meet the challenge," it said.

Researchers urged officials to update digital resiliency plans to ensure operations continue and voters exercise their right to vote, "even in the face of cyberattacks or technical malfunctions."

The authors offer several technical recommendations for how to prepare and warn it will be costly at a time when state and local government coffers have been depleted by pandemic-related closures.

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"Making the changes necessary to run credible and secure elections this November will cost money, and we urge Congress to provide states with the resources they need to ensure that local election officials can run safe and secure elections this fall," the report says.

Congress earmarked $400 million for election security in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. House Democrats are seeking an additional $3.6 billion to fund security in its new stimulus proposal -- a spending level that has mostly met with opposition from Republicans.

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