Mar 10, 2020 - Technology

DHS official claims 2020 will be "most secure" election in U.S. history

Christopher Krebs, Homeland Security CISA director. Photo: Cheriss May

The 202o election will be "the most secure, most protected election in the history of the United States of America," Christopher Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said at an Axios event on Tuesday.

Why it matters: State and local officials, even before the start of party primaries, have voiced concerns that outside interference could disrupt elections in 2020. The recent outbreak of coronavirus has also impacted some state primaries.

"People need to keep in mind that [election security] is something that we've been plugging away at for a long time. Get out there and vote. That's the best defense against any sort of interference."
— Christopher Krebs

What he's saying: Krebs said the Trump administration is working with state and local election officials to develop contingencies for elections in communities affected by the virus.

  • Krebs said the administration has considered how a pandemic may impact elections and suggested that states use alternatives to in-person voting — such as voting by mail — to prevent the virus from spreading further during the election season.
  • "There's no evidence that licking an envelope transmits [coronavirus]," Krebs said, adding that the administration has consulted with the CDC about this. "The show must go on."

The big picture: Intelligence officials warned members of Congress in February that Russia is actively interfering in the 2020 election.


  • Democratic Party chairs in Washington, the state with the largest number of U.S. deaths to date, have held conversations about how to deal with coronavirus and its potential effects on early voting contests.

Go deeper: The ballot box as a battlefield

Go deeper

Washington state tests safe voting in the age of the coronavirus

Mail-in Democratic primary ballots for Washington state await counting in King County, which has had the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Today's "Super Tuesday 2.0" primaries in six states are a real-time test of how the coronavirus could alter presidential voting — especially in Washington, the state with the largest number of U.S. deaths to date.

The state of play: Washington is a vote-by-mail state, which presents unique concerns and benefits in the face of a health crisis.

News Shapers: Cybersecurity

Rep. Mike Gallagher (L) and Sen. Angus King discussing the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. Photo: Cheriss May for Axios

On Tuesday morning, Axios White House and politics correspondent Margaret Talev hosted a series of one-on-one conversations to discuss cybersecurity and the news of the day.

Watch the recorded livestream here.

Sen. Angus King and Rep. Mike Gallagher

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), leaders of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, announced the release of a report that calls for the creation of a coherent cybersecurity policy at the federal level. They outlined the need for clearly delineated rules around deterrence against cyberattacks, as well as the need for increased U.S. engagement with the international community on these issues.

Sen. Angus King

  • On a sense of urgency on this subject within the legislature: "There’s a tipping point ... people realize how serious this threat is because of IoT, 5G and autonomous vehicles. The threat is very real and getting more serious."
  • Why Congress has to get this right: "Structure is policy. If you’re going to have messy incoherent structure, you’re going to have messy incoherent strategy."

Rep. Mike Gallagher

  • On working across the aisle in cybersecurity policy: “I see an enormous bipartisan consensus, and I don’t see that changing regardless of who wins the election.”
  • On taking a stand in cybersecurity policy: “I would reject any source of moral equivalence between us and Russia and China. [Our cyber policy] is defensive, and it’s in partnership with our allies. We are acting in concert with the free world.”
Lisa Monaco, former Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser at the White House

Former Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, Lisa Monaco highlighted the intersection of cybersecurity and pandemic disease and underscored the critical need for international collaboration.

  • On the risks of disinformation during a time of crisis: "The biggest threats we face today don’t know any borders. ... We’re seeing an epidemic of disinformation when it comes to coronavirus [and] we should anticipate other state actors to use this opportunity to sow discord and division."
  • On the importance of multilateralism: "You can’t successfully isolate bad actors if you don’t bring other countries along with you … [right now] we’re on the outside looking in and that’s a bad place to be."
Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Director of CISA at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Christopher Krebs discussed how the cyber issues are being communicated to the public, as well as topics around election security.

  • On cybersecurity in the context of coronavirus: "We’re trying to separate the tactical information of today from the strategic issues ... how are we managing things like telecommunications."
  • On election fairness: “Our preparations and protections for the 2020 election are far beyond our preparation for the previous election. ... This will be the most secure and most protected election ever in the United States of America.”

Thank you, Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Watch: Axios hosts a conversation on cybersecurity

Live from Washington, D.C., Axios politics and White House editor Margaret Talev hosts a conversation on cybersecurity and the future of tech policy, featuring Sen. Angus King, Rep. Mike Gallagher, Homeland Security CISA Director Christopher Krebs and former Obama Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco.