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Swing states build 2020 hacking protections: Will they hold?

News

Swing states build 2020 hacking protections: Will they hold?

With the presidency on the ballot in less than a year, fears of another attempt by Russia or other foreign powers to interfere in the election seem to grow with each passing day.

But in the battlegrounds where the outcome will be decided — the 13 states almost certain to be most hotly contested by both parties — election security has been tightening and the opportunities for a successful hacking of American democracy are being greatly reduced, a review of the procedures and equipment on course to be used in each state in November 2020 makes clear.

"There's been a huge amount of progress since 2016," says Elaine Kamarck, an election security expert at the Brookings Institution. James Clapper, a former director of national intelligence, says his assessment of the fight against election interference results in feeling "confident that a lot has been done to make it better."

In fact, many who work on the issue now cite the public's perception that our election systems are vulnerable as a problem at least as great as the actual threat.

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The 13 states where election security matters most

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.

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Warren the big winner in 'approval voting' poll

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has the broadest support among Democratic presidential contenders — by a healthy margin — according to a poll testing a voting system that allows people to show support for more than one candidate.

Using what's called approval voting, the Massachusetts senator would have the support of 74 percent of Democratic primary voters, according to the poll, conducted Nov. 16-20 by the Center for Election Science.

Warren was followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with 64 percent, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 61 percent. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive frontrunner in the crowded Democratic field, finishes in fourth place at 53 percent. The poll has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

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Debate

For the young, getting big money out of politics is the cause of our time

"Money in our political system has completely eroded the promise of a functioning and just democracy," argues Wambui Gatheru of American Promise.

Community

Training: A Holiday Recipe for Talking Politics with Family

Thanksgiving might be over, but the holiday season is still underway. Need a little help figuring out how and when to talk politics with your family? Join Living Room Conversations on Dec. 10 to get tips and tricks navigating family discussions.

We’re all about the issues that have broken American democracy — and efforts to make governments work again for you, your family and your friends.
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