Secretary of State Paul Pate partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to conduct election preparedness exercises for Iowa counties on Thursday. County auditors, IT administrators, and emergency management coordinators participated in the Iowa Elections Cyber Tabletop Exercise, intended to test each county’s incident response plan for the 2020 general election.
Each participant tackled simulations of various scenarios that could impact voter confidence and the integrity of elections.
“As election managers, we have to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best,” Secretary Pate said. “This was an important exercise to help counties identify best practices and areas for improvement. Election cybersecurity requires a team effort, and we all have to be united on that team, at the county, state and federal levels.”
Secretary Pate has received national recognition for his election cybersecurity efforts. Pate won the prestigious IDEAS Award in 2019 from the National Association of Secretaries of State for his “Partnerships Pay Dividends: A Roadmap to Election Cybersecurity” initiative.
“CISA has been working side-by-side with Secretary Pate and local officials around Iowa for more than three years to prepare for the 2020 elections, and today’s exercise gave us an opportunity to finetune processes and incident response plans before voters head to the polls,” said CISA Senior Cybersecurity Advisor Matt Masterson. “Voters have a role to play in securing our elections too, particularly during COVID, and they can do that by focusing on being a ‘3-P voter’ – prepared, participating, and patient. That means make a plan today for how you’re going to vote, sign up to be a poll worker if you’re healthy and able, and remember that everything may take a little longer this year, including reporting the results.”
More than 100 county and state officials participated in Thursday’s exercise.
“The tabletop exercise, with its extreme but completely believable scenarios, reminded us county auditors that there is no end to the challenges that can arise before, during and after an election,” said Black Hawk County Auditor Grant Veeder. “This was a good opportunity to share ideas and learn about resources, and to mentally prepare ourselves for the unexpected.”
“I found the tabletop exercise to be very beneficial,” said Ringgold County Auditor Amanda Waske. “By interacting with my peers, walking through the various scenarios, allowed me to really focus in on what needs improvements then update my incident response plan accordingly.”
Secretary Pate reminds Iowans that state and local election officials are the trusted sources for information and they are working together on a bipartisan basis to provide safe and secure elections.