CDT Receives Democracy Fund Grant to Address Election Privacy and Security

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Data-driven campaigns and computerized election infrastructure have raised serious concerns regarding election privacy and security. As more political activity touches the digital realm, there exists a real potential for these issues to influence voting, compromise election activities, and alter core democratic norms. Through a new grant from Democracy Fund, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) will conduct a two-year research project aimed at addressing key election cybersecurity issues, such as voter registration and campaign data management.

“The U.S. 2016 election powerfully illustrated the cybersecurity risks inherent in our elections systems, including malicious attacks against election infrastructure, massive breaches of campaign voter data, and the potential of electronic manipulation of vote-casting technology. For democracy to thrive, voters must have confidence in both the integrity of the election systems, as well as confidence that their votes will remain private and secure. We are grateful to the Democracy Fund for its generous support as we work to ensure that our voting systems remain secure,” said Nuala O’Connor, CDT President & CEO.

The Democracy Fund grant will allow CDT to conduct research and convene key stakeholders in election administration and campaigns in order to better understand cybersecurity threats. The end result will be a set of “data hygiene” recommendations, a cybersecurity maturity model and set of “playbooks” for election officials, and other best practices that can be implemented in future elections.

“We’re investing in the Center for Democracy and Technology because the elections field needs a place where technology experts and election professionals can convene, learn, and co-create solutions to the challenges that have emerged for election security,” said Adam Ambrogi, Director of the Elections Program at Democracy Fund. “Joseph Lorenzo Hall and the CDT team balance an expertise on the challenges facing our elections system with an understanding and sensitivity to the practical challenges of running elections. We hope that their efforts will add clarity to the challenges we face, and provide much-needed opportunities for experts and policymakers to communicate, collaborate, and respond to threats to our elections.”

CDT’s Chief Technologist, Joseph Lorenzo Hall, will lead the project. CDT will explore ways to modernize privacy and security practices for state voter registration systems, and work to develop clear guidelines to help campaigns better secure data sets that contain potentially sensitive voter data. CDT will take advantage of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections to fully engage election officials, election law practitioners, data scientists, and campaign data service providers, and then move toward broader engagement and consensus building at both the state and local levels.

“Both election officials and political campaigns have highly conflicting priorities on a backdrop of severely limited resources and technical experience when it comes to the cybersecurity of core election infrastructure. Yet, as security researchers at DEFCON illustrated by compromising voting machines in a matter of hours, strong cybersecurity is essential to protecting this underpinning of democracy. CDT is eager to start this incredibly important project,” said Hall.

Any election or campaign officials who would like to be engaged in the project should contact Joseph Lorenzo Hall at [email protected].

About the Democracy Fund
The Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation established by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to help ensure that our political system can withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Since 2011, Democracy Fund has invested more than $60 million in support of modern elections, effective governance, and a vibrant public square. To learn more, visit www.democracyfund.org.

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