The challenges facing contemporary democracies are unprecedented. The rise of foreign interference in the spread of disinformation, the fragility of cybersecurity, and questions of electoral integrity have recently forced us to reevaluate our conception of national security. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe.
With less than 100 days to the 2020 general election – and with the coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of abating – there are renewed concerns about the safety, integrity, and security of American electoral processes and structures. Intelligence officials continue to warn that foreign actors – especially Russia, China and Iran – are trying to disrupt this year's voting with disinformation and attempted cyberattacks.
Chief among their concerns are the fragility of online state voter registration systems, which were among the main targets of Russian hackers in 2016. In addition, many states are experimenting with expanded online voting and mail-in ballots. These options, while likely effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, rely, to some extent, on technologies that can be targeted by hackers or nation states to manipulate election results.
How is America preparing to handle potential foreign interference in the 2020 election? Are these threats different than 2016? What is the government doing to safeguard elections?