Stories

The ballot box as a battlefield

A poll worker
Mandy Vigil of New Mexico works during a 2020 exercise in Springfield, Va., for state and local election officials. Photo: Alex Brandon/AP.

America's state and local officials are increasingly bringing a battlefield mentality to election security, AP reports.

Why it matters: Election security worries have soared to new levels due to Russian military agents targeting voting systems nationwide.

  • Before 2016, the job of local election officials could had been described as akin to a wedding planner who keeps track of who will be showing up on Election Day and ensures all the equipment and supplies are in place.
  • In 2019, it's "another level of war,” said Jesse Salinas, the chief elections official in Yolo County, California. “We have to fight back, and we have to prepare.”

The big picture: The Harvard-based Defending Digital Democracy Project, founded by former presidential campaign manager Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades, brought election officials from 24 states together with military advisers.

  • The project’s latest playbook encourages state and local election officials to adopt a “battle staff” command structure with clear responsibilities and standard operating procedures for dealing with minor issues, AP notes.
  • The project is also providing officials with a free state-of-the-art incident tracking system.

The bottom line: “If democracy is under attack and you guys are the ones at the pointy end of the spear," said Eric Rosenbach, co-director of the Belfer Center, "why shouldn’t we train that way?"

Go deeper: