U.S. Election Assistance Commissioner Thomas Hicks said on Dec. 3 that election security in the U.S. is “light years” ahead of where it was in 2016, but also emphasized there’s plenty more to do to ensure good security for the 2020 election cycle.

Speaking at an event presented by Fortinet, Hicks said the situation in the 2016 cycle was characterized by “agencies not talking to each other … we were in silos.” A big shift in thinking happened when the Federal government classified election infrastructure as “critical” to the U.S., Hicks said.

As a result, “now if something happens, we know exactly who to call across thousands of jurisdictions … We can communicate better,” he said.

Two factors will help color the future of election security through next year – physical preparedness by voting jurisdictions, and an expected burst of additional assistance funding from the Federal government.

Congress appropriated $380 million of assistance funding for states in 2018. Hicks said this week, “we are hearing that more is coming” – somewhere in the range of $250 million to $600 million – “to help improve the election process.” That funding may pay for new voting equipment and workforce training, he said.

Outside of additional funding resources, Hicks said election security efforts will focus on such nuts-and-bolts topics as making sure that polling places have ample supplies of printed ballots. On the informational front, Hicks said U.S. efforts will emphasize making sure that voters and voting jurisdictions have “trusted sources” of information about the process so they don’t fall prey to disinformation campaigns.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.