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Campaign and Election Security Policy: Overview and Recent Developments for Congress


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Election security is one of the most prominent policy challenges facing Congress. A November 2019 warning from the heads of several federal agencies illustrates the interdisciplinary and ongoing nature of the threat to American elections. According to the joint statement, in the 2020 election cycle, "Russia, China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors all will seek to interfere in the voting process or influence voter perceptions. Adversaries may try to accomplish their goals through a variety of means, including social media campaigns, directing disinformation operations or conducting disruptive or destructive cyber-attacks on state and local infrastructure." These are just the latest challenges in securing American elections. Traditionally, election administration emphasizes policy goals such as ensuring that all eligible voters, and only eligible voters, may register and cast ballots; that those ballots are counted properly; and that the voting public views that process as legitimate and transparent. Preserving election continuity is a chief concern. Election officials therefore have long prepared contingency plans that address various risks, such as equipment malfunctions, power outages, and natural disasters. These traditional concerns remain, but have taken on new complexity amid foreign interference in U.S. elections. In addition to managing traditional security concerns about infrastructure and administrative processes (e.g., counting ballots), mitigating external threats to the accuracy of information voters receive, particularly from foreign sources, is a potential challenge for political campaigns, election administrators, and the public. Addressing any one of these topics might involve multiple areas of public policy or law. Doing so also can involve complex practical challenges about which levels of government, or agencies, are best equipped or most appropriate to respond.



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