Along with the candidates and the issues, the 2020 presidential election is also going to be about the voting process itself.
Russian efforts to hack into the voting systems of 2016 have boosted election security to a critical concern this time, prompting states to spend tens of millions buying new equipment, hiring cybersecurity wizards and installing software that warns of intrusions — among numerous other steps. More purchases of hardware, software and expertise are coming in the months ahead.
Whether enough money gets spent, and wisely, won't be known for sure until Nov. 3, 2020 — when the system will be subject to the one test that really matters. And whether the country decides the presidential election result is trustworthy will likely come down to how reliably things work in the relatively small number of states both nominees are contesting.
With 11 months to go, The Fulcrum reviewed information from state elections officials, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Election Assistance Commission and news reports to get a sense of the election security landscape. Here's the state of play in the 13 states likeliest to be presidential battlegrounds.
Efforts to fend off election hackers in 2020 and beyond have revolved around protecting ballot equipment and the databases of registered voters. Little attention has been focused on the vendors and their employees.
But the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice is proposing that the vendors who make election equipment and related systems be subjected to heightened oversight and vetting, much like defense contractors or others involved in national security.
"There is almost no federal regulation of the vendors that design and maintain the systems that allow us to determine who can vote, how they vote, or how their votes are counted and reported," according to a new report from the nonpartisan policy institute.
The chairwoman of the Election Assistance Commission told the nation's state legislators last week that she's opposed to automatic voter registration.
Adding qualified citizens to the rolls whenever they do business with a state agency, unless they choose to opt out, has quickly become a widely accepted component of most democracy reform agendas. Eighteen states will have so-called AVR in place in time for the 2020 election after a surge of acceptance in state legislatures this decade. And the practice would be nationally mandated under HR 1, the comprehensive campaign finance, election and ethics legislation the House passed in March.
But Christy McCormick argues that registering to vote is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment and that "not registering to vote is a choice – we should respect our citizens' choices."
Georgia's top elections official is asserting vindication from Washington for the state's conduct of last year's highly contentious election.
Brad Raffensperger said ample evidence from an exhaustive assessment of midterm contests nationwide by the Election Assistance Commission proves the 2018 contest was conducted on the up-and-up. Raffensberger was elected secretary of state in November to succeed fellow Republican Brian Kemp, who supervised the election that narrowly made him governor.
Democrats characterize Georgia's contest as soiled by a multifaceted effort at voter suppression by the GOP that they maintain was decisive in preventing Stacey Abrams from becoming the first black woman ever elected to a governorship.
"Liberal activists have been desperately trying to advance a false narrative of pervasive voter suppression which, as the EAVS report confirms, has no basis in reality," Raffensperger said. "While these activists peddle falsehoods — apparently as a springboard for higher office or to dupe donors into supporting their nonprofit — my office will continue to aggressively pursue initiatives like automated voter registration, which make Georgia a top state in the nation for voter registration and voter turnout."