CISA hosts election security exercise ahead of 2022 midterm elections

Industry, CA, Thursday, June 16, 2022 - LA County poll worker Chris Torres mans a machine that automatically opens mail in ballots as they are processed inside a converted Frys Electoronics store.

Industry, CA, Thursday, June 16, 2022 - LA County poll worker Chris Torres mans a machine that automatically opens mail in ballots as they are processed inside a converted Frys Electoronics store. Robert Gauthier / Getty Images

State and local officials, along with representatives from federal agencies and election industry companies, participated in the “Tabletop the Vote” exercise to prepare for a range of hypothetical risks to election operations.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and state and local members of the election community completed a three-day exercise last week to prepare for a host of potential cyber and physical threats to the voting process ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. 

The fifth annual “Tabletop the Vote” exercise—hosted by CISA, in coordination with the Election Assistance Commission, the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors—was held amid growing concerns about the harms of election-related misinformation and the targeted harassment of election officials on the integrity of the voting process. 

CISA noted in a press release that the exercise “was not in response to any specific or credible threat,” but rather a way to give officials and election administrators “the opportunity to share practices around cyber and physical incident planning, preparedness, identification, response, and recovery.” Officials from the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency and other federal agencies also participated in the event, along with state and local election officials and over a dozen election industry companies. 

The messaging around the exercise highlighted ongoing efforts by officials at all levels of government to instill confidence in the security and resiliency of election infrastructure ahead of the upcoming midterms, particularly as falsehoods about the accuracy of voting systems continue to pose a serious challenge for election administrators. A Democratic staff report released by the House Oversight and Reform Committee earlier this month found that the spread of misinformation “harms nearly every element of election administration” and “increases the possibility of election subversion.”

“This week’s exercise was just one of the many examples of the year-round coordination taking place among the federal government, state and local election officials, and the private sector to prepare for the 2022 general election,” the leaders of the agencies and associations of election officials who organized the event said in a joint statement, noting that all U.S. states, territories and local jurisdictions already share and receive information about potential threats to election infrastructure.

While the officials said in their joint statement that a “dynamic environment” of risks—including cyber and physical threats to election infrastructure and “false election information that weaken voters’ trust in the process”—poses an ongoing challenge to election officials, they also underscored the confidence that voters should continue to have in the election process. 

“Rigorous safeguards are in place to ensure the cyber and physical security of election equipment, and procedures and protocols are continuously improved to further identify, respond to, and recover from potential incidents,” the officials added.

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