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Contingency Planning and Election System Security Report

Date: 
October 12, 2016
Summary: 
Manual for contingency planning
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Contingency Planning and Election System Security 10-2016.pdf982.97 KB

Executive Summary

There are many scenarios, both natural and human-caused, that warrant taking precautions and
making preparations to prevent, mitigate, and recover from an emergency situation that may
disrupt an election. Municipal clerks should ensure that each municipality has an Election Day
emergency response plan. Contingency plans should be reviewed with election inspectors as part
of the clerk’s pre-election training. County clerks and emergency response crews such as the
police, fire and emergency response departments, as well as polling place property owners and
facility managers should be apprised of relevant aspects of these plans.

In 2007, the former State Elections Board prepared a report and made recommendations with
respect to state, regional and local election-related contingency planning efforts and
preparedness. The Report on Election-Related Contingency Planning covered both large scale
and limited scope nature disasters or technology threats that may occur at or near election time.
The 2016 Report on Contingency Planning and Election System Security includes current
security updates for election IT systems, voting equipment and election night results.
Emergency situations and guidance has been updated to reflect scenarios which have become
more likely and which also provide a framework for preparing for other contingencies.
Many computer systems are used to facilitate elections in Wisconsin. Securing these systems is
a team effort between Wisconsin state security staff, Wisconsin Elections Commission staff, and
local election officials.

WEC staff and state security staff provide security for the computer systems themselves.
Wisconsin’s election-related computer systems are hosted in the State Data Center, ensuring
state of the art security protections. WEC staff work with state security staff as well as the
federal Department of Homeland Security to assess the vulnerability of these systems and to
identify and implement recommendations for improvements.

Recently, the Department of Homeland Security reported that hackers targeted the voter
registration systems of several states. While it would be nearly impossible for hackers to alter an
election’s outcome by targeting the voter registration database due to security measures as well
as the decentralized nature of our elections systems, such reports can damage voter confidence in
our country’s elections.

Local election officials provide a critical link in the security chain by ensuring the local
workstations used to access state election systems are protected and up to date. There are many
simple steps clerks can take to help prevent unauthorized access into state systems.
Ensuring the accuracy and integrity of voting equipment in use in Wisconsin requires
cooperation between three levels of government. On the federal level, the U.S. Election
Assistance Commission (EAC) provides testing and certification of electronic voting systems.
Each system approved for use is reviewed by an independent testing authority to ensure that the
functionality and accuracy meets federal standards. The EAC created their testing and
certification protocol to assist states who do not have the resources or ability to conduct a
comprehensive review of voting systems.

The State of Wisconsin conducts an additional testing and certification process designed to
assess whether a system is compatible with Wisconsin election law. Each system is tested to
confirm that it is able to be programmed to accommodate election configurations unique to
Wisconsin. On the municipal level, local election officials are responsible for keeping voting
equipment secure in between elections, verifying the accuracy of the programming of their
equipment and ensuring that each voting equipment memory device remains secure until after
the polls close on Election Day.

Election night result reporting plays a central role in the public perception of an election’s
validity and integrity. The public becomes concerned when the official and unofficial results
differ. It is necessary to protect both unofficial and official results from manipulation.
Wisconsin’s decentralized system for reporting unofficial election results and certifying official
results contains a built-in level of security and deters manipulation of the results because it
requires local, county and state election officials to independently verify ward or reporting unit
level results that are posted in a timely and open manner to the public.