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Katko on election cybersecurity: New York is further ahead than other states

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Rep. John Katko hosts a meeting with local elections commissioners and federal cybersecurity officials.

Board of elections commissioners in central New York met with federal cybersecurity officials to talk about what issues and vulnerabilities they face leading up to the 2020 election. Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) said New York is much further ahead in election cybersecurity than other states. 

Katko said the misinformation campaign on social media that was launched during the 2016 presidential election was designed to influence and create mistrust in the system. Bringing together local elections commissioners and federal cybersecurity officials is meant to build back trust.

"There has never been any proof of anything nationwide, anywhere, where the 2016 or any other hacks since then into the election systems, has resulted in changing the voting numbers," Katko said. "It's undermining the confidence. It's making it more difficult to vote."

Katko praised New York State for how it's handling election cybersecurity. All of the state’s election districts are tuned into a federal information sharing database that only 25% of election districts across the country are participating in. All that information can sometimes overwhelm smaller counties. New York also has paper ballot backups.

"So, even if there is a ransomware attack or cyberattack, I don't think it's going to undermine the impact of the election results," Katko said.

In Onondaga County, Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny said their biggest vulnerability is with outside vendors they use. On election night last year, a technical glitch from a vendor delayed election results.

"It was a 45-minute delay that felt like 45 years," Czarny said. "We learned how not to have that problem in the future and how to test for it as well.”

Congress also allocated $425 million for election security leading up to this year's general election. 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.