Arizona ballot review undermined election security, new EI-ISAC leaders say
Two of the former statewide election officials recently hired to lead the Center for Internet Security’s election security efforts said Friday that the partisan ballot review in Maricopa County, Arizona, undermined the work that election officials have done to secure elections over the past few years.
“It’s the very opposite of what election officials around the country have been working to do,” said former Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, who started earlier this month as CIS’s new vice president of election operations and support. “There’s no need to make up stuff because we have practices that exist that dedicated officials at the state and local level have been carrying out.”
Boockvar’s comments came the same day the Arizona Senate is due to hold a hearing on the results of a five-month inspection of more than 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County, a process that was ordered up by supporters of former President Donald Trump who objected to his loss last year to Joe Biden. A draft of the report by Cyber Ninjas, the third-party company that was hired to conduct the ballot inspection — which was so fraught that Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs decertified the county’s entire inventory of voting equipment — once again confirmed President Biden’s win, though it continued to push claims about election officials’ conduct that Maricopa County officials have said are false.
Boockvar, who resigned from her Pennsylvania role in February for reasons unrelated to election administration, said she encountered a similar situation to the one in Arizona last December. She said “a couple of [state] senators convinced a couple of county commissioners” in rural Fulton County to allow an unauthorized vendor with no background in election technology to inspect the county’s voting equipment without permission or notifying her office.
“They did it in the dark of night,” she said. “Those systems have been compromised in the name of a so-called forensic audit.”
Boockvar’s successor decertified Fulton County’s equipment in July, though Pennsylvania State Senate Republicans have since launched another partisan investigation of election results.
“Election officials are under attack,” said Marci Andino, a former elections director in South Carolina. “This has created a lot of interest in how elections are conducted. Very similar to what we saw after 2000, but there’s an intensity that is like no other.”
Andino will soon begin as director of the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center, the federally backed operation, run by CIS, that helps state and local governments secure their voting-related IT systems and distributes threat intelligence to election officials and their cybersecurity colleagues. She’ll replace the EI-ISAC’s founding director, Ben Spear, who was recently hired by the New York State Board of Elections as its chief information security officer. Jared Dearing, a former executive director of the Kentucky Board of Elections, also joined CIS as its senior director of election security.
‘A wonderful organization’
While Andino said “it’s good for Arizona” that the latest Maricopa recount has once again confirmed the results of the 2020 election, the episode has been a reminder that there’s much work ahead for the EI-ISAC.
“All of this does make us targets, both physical security and it increases cybersecurity risk. There’s a lot of work for everyone to do before 2022, before 2024,” she said.
Both Boockvar and Andino have been on the receiving end of CIS’s offerings for election officials, including its network-monitoring devices, known as Albert sensors, and round-the-clock services like malicious domain blocking.
“We knew how to run elections and understand the basics, but they brought a whole team of people to support state and local election officials and we’ve never seen anything like that,” Andino said of the EI-ISAC, which was launched in 2018, a year after the federal government declared election systems to be critical infrastructure. “I thought it was a wonderful organization.”
The EI-ISAC numbered nearly 3,000 state and local election officials around the time of last year’s election, but there are still thousands more jurisdictions around the country that haven’t yet joined. As a CIS vice president, Boockvar said much of her job will be outreach to smaller localities that are still responsible for holding and securing elections.
“One of the things CIS is also really prioritizing is making sure we’re providing support to the underserved communities,” she said. “We understand what it means to run an election at the state and local level. I’m really overseeing the entire elections agenda, support strategy, working with state, local and federal officials across the country.”