Elections Security Quick Win Checklist

By Philippe Langlois, security engineer and author of the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report

This blog is being posted in collaboration with efforts of The Council of State Governments Overseas Voting Initiative. It outlines cybersecurity recommendations and was originally published on “The Turnout” available here: https://turnout.rocks/our-blog/elections-security-quick-win-checklist/

By now, cybersecurity isn’t a foreign concept to anyone working in the elections sector, especially as there’s been a welcome increase in resources, guidance, and new participants. Unfortunately, the deluge of advice from well-intended people isn’t necessarily easy for everyone to abide by while trying to get the final pieces ready for a big election. In a small effort to help elections officials get ready for the election, I’ve created a simple pre-election cybersecurity checklist to help prioritize some quick wins.

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Election Results: What to Expect as Ballots are Counted

By Laura Hinkle, The Council of State Governments Fellow

The 2020 general election is on track to pull some of the largest voter turnout in decades, with many states already reporting record high numbers of absentee ballot requests and returns. Millions of Americans are deeply invested in this election cycle, and as Election Day draws closer, there will be immense pressure on journalists and major news outlets to deliver election results as quickly and accurately as possible. For over a century, there has been precedent for news outlets to report election results on election night. While the intention behind this practice is to inform the general public, this practice can be incredibly misleading because many Americans aren’t aware that the results reported on election night are never official.

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Accessible Telework: Strategies for Developing Inclusive State Agency Programs

By Elise Gurney, The Council of State Governments

Telework has increased substantially as a result of COVID-19. According to research reported by the National Bureau of Economic Research, about half of all employed Americans now work from home, including 35% of workers who switched to remote work during the pandemic. In response, many employers — including state government departments and agencies — are developing or revising their telework policies and programs. As they do, it’s critical that telework be accessible and usable to all employees, including those with disabilities. Not only does this enable more employees to benefit from the flexibility, time and cost savings and health protections offered by telework, it ensures that agencies comply with civil rights laws and disability-related policies.

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Keep Americans Connected Pledge Ends, Yet Broadband Access Remains Essential

By: Vanessa Grossl, CSG policy analyst

Broadband has long been hailed the new essential utility. For years, states and cities have been leveraging various resources and taking steps to increase access in order for communities to reach their fullest potential. Still, significant access gaps remain and, moreover, affordability is a barrier for many who live in areas where services exist. The pandemic has proven just how vital broadband access is for families to remain safe, healthy and connected. 

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State Action to Enable Remote Legislative Activity

By Sierra Hatfield, CSG policy analyst and Aja Croteau, CSG operations manager

Key Insights

With guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control warning against mass gatherings, multiple states are grappling with how to continue their legislative sessions. Many states have adjourned or postponed meetings and all are working to ensure that essential government operations continue with transparency while protecting the health and safety of lawmakers. To address these circumstances brought on by the public health emergency, some states are looking to teleconferencing and remote session participation.

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Federal Response to COVID-19: Is Federal Funding Tied to Reopening Schools?

By Max Morley

States are still grappling with how — or if — to reopen K-12 schools in the fall. States are exploring a wide range of options, from mandated in-person school to a fully-remote version of school. Most states fall between these two extremes, seeking a hybrid option of some in-person and some remote learning.

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Voting Amidst COVID-19: Ensuring Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

By Rachel Wright

With the implementation of strict public health measures in the U.S. in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually no aspect of American life has been left untouched. The conduct of elections has proven no exception. In an effort to prioritize the safety of voters and poll workers alike, numerous states have instituted no-excuse absentee voting, loosened requirements for permanent absentee status, expanded vote-by-mail procedures and explored drive-up options for voting and registration.

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COVID-19 and the Workforce: Impacts on Workers with Disabilities

By Rachel Wright

Unemployment and Absence from Work

As the coronavirus pandemic temporarily curtailed many businesses’ in-person operations, layoffs and furloughs were quick to follow. Although the permanency of these layoffs is still unclear, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that job losses throughout the pandemic culminated in an unemployment rate of nearly 14.7% by the end of April. Of the positions lost, approximately 950,000 were previously held by workers with disabilities, putting the unemployment rate among these workers at 20%[1].

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State Election Preparations During COVID-19: Legislative Trends

By: Rachel Wright, Research Associate

Both public health guidelines and the desire among state officials to protect poll workers and voters alike have prompted states to implement changes to voting procedures throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Governors in over 17 states have issued executive orders delaying elections and prioritizing mail ballots. Furthermore, over 200 bills have been proposed by legislators that seek to enhance the ability of voters to safely cast their ballot as well as help elections officials to process and count mail ballots.

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Businesses Turn to Tech to Meet State Re-Opening Guidelines

By: Vanessa Grossl, CSG policy analyst

Many businesses are using new and evolving technologies to remain open or to re-open while meeting state public health guidelines. Temperature checks, new sensors and cameras are becoming the new normal. Businesses are installing fever-screening stations and various digital trackers designed to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Some employers are pushing for continuous monitoring during work shifts and extra security personnel to assist with these endeavors. But state officials must weigh both privacy concerns and potential COVID-19 mitigation benefits in deciding whether to implement these emerging technologies.

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