The 2020 election presents a paradox. Despite dramatic changes to the election process due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increasingly complex threats since the 2016 election, 2020 is widely regarded as “the most secure [election] in American history.” Operationally, it was also one of the smoothest. State and local election officials overcame unprecedented challenges and scarce resources to administer an election with fewer incidents of cyber compromises, technical failures or long lines than anticipated. After Election Day, recount procedures functioned as designed. Yet, amidst these successes, officials from both parties faced a barrage of mis- and disinformation about the election process that served to undermine confidence in the result.
Though the election security ecosystem survived the triple threat of cybersecurity, physical security, and mis- and disinformation in 2020, this success will prove to be hard to replicate in future election cycles without proper investment and reinforcement.