The Cybersecurity Preparedness of Local Election Offices: Influences, Challenges, and the Intergovernmental Perspective
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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Recent events have heightened concerns over the cybersecurity of US elections. In the decentralized US election system, counties and municipalities have primary responsibility for election administration. Therefore, protecting elections from cyber threats is largely the responsibility of local governments. Variation across local election offices in their cybersecurity capacity and preparedness is likely given the diversity of local government entities that exist in the United States. This study explores which factors influence the cybersecurity preparedness of local election administration offices. Literature on US election institutions, local government capacity, intergovernmental relations, emergency management, and the digital divide was reviewed to identify potential factors and build a framework for analysis. Using quantitative and qualitative primary data, this study explores how the resources and other internal characteristics of local election offices, characteristics of local jurisdictions and their populations, and intergovernmental partnerships may influence the cybersecurity preparedness of local election offices. The findings suggest that a local election administration office’s resource availability, technology use, and intergovernmental coordination are related to their cybersecurity preparedness. The influence of the human resources within local election offices on their cybersecurity preparedness is apparent through both quantitative and qualitative data analysis. A relationship between the use of electronic pollbooks by local election jurisdictions and the cybersecurity preparedness of local election offices stands out across quantitative models. The importance of relationships with intergovernmental partners was emphasized throughout expert interviews.