Virginia Department of Elections highlights security efforts

2020 election vote

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The Virginia Department of Elections is aware of security concerns related to elections and voting systems.

“As election officials, it is important for us to make sure that voters know their votes will be counted and their voices are heard,” said Christopher Piper, Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner.

The department has worked with voting equipment vendors to ensure all voting systems meet new standards prior to the 2020 General Election. System vulnerability tests are constantly in process to ensure that the department’s infrastructure is sound.

The work to protect Virginia’s elections from cybercrime is ongoing. Gov. Ralph Northam signed a measure last March that requires the creation and implementation of cybersecurity standards for all jurisdictions who access the state election database. These efforts have helped Virginia to prevent, mitigate, and respond to cyber incidents targeting the integrity of its election system.

Cybersecurity training courses have been made available to Virginia’s election administrators statewide. One of the Department of Elections’ most successful training opportunities has generated participation from more than 400 of Virginia’s election officials. The program, created by the Chicago nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life, is divided into three courses and covers practices like creating strong passwords, protecting accounts with two-factor authentication, identifying common types of cyberattacks faced by government offices, and effectively communicating with the public about security issues.

The department has developed collaborative relationships with federal, state and local election officials to share and learn from one another in support of more secure elections. The Virginia Information Technologies Agency and the Center for Internet Security work with the Department of Elections to ensure adherence to state security policies and best practices set forth by CIS, including conducting an annual security audit.

The department has increased its staff to include hiring additional training professionals tasked with updating and maintaining compliance materials for elections, while staff also receives ongoing security training and resources from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

“Training is a top priority at the Virginia Department of Elections,” Piper said. “We are proud of the fact that our training opportunities are as diverse as the partnerships we have formed. Our training varies from conducting tabletop exercises for election officials to hosting continuity of operations workgroup meetings with elections stakeholders, where we identify best practices and areas for improvement in cyber incident planning, preparedness, identification and response.”

Virginia’s 2020 Primary Election will be held March 3, and the General Election scheduled for Nove. 3. The Department of Elections encourages voters to take the following steps to help promote election security and voter confidence:

  • Check your voter registration status to ensure that it is current and/or find your polling place. Virginia provides a secure way for Virginia voters to access their registration information through our citizen portal: www.elections.virginia.gov/citizen-portal/.
  • Always review your ballot before casting it.
  • Find information about elections by using trusted sources such as state and county agencies.

Learn more about the security efforts of the Virginia Department of Elections and our state and federal partners at: www.elections.virginia.gov/resultsreports/election-security.

Follow the Virginia Department of Elections on Twitter@VaELECT and like the department on Facebook (www.facebook.com/VirginiaELECT).


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