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2020 Texas Election Security Update

Ballot boxElection security is a top priority for the Texas Secretary of State’s office as we continue to employ effective and forward-thinking cybersecurity measures to further strengthen our state’s elections systems and safeguard our elections infrastructure against any malicious cyber activity. As always, our Elections and Information Technology officials are working tirelessly to ensure that every eligible Texas voter can cast a ballot with confidence.

Election Security in Past Elections

Legislative Efforts to prioritize Election Security

Working with Federal and Local Partners

Current Safeguards in Texas Law

Protecting Election Infrastructure

Misinformation in Elections

Below are the full texts of selected Texas Election Code provisions that relate to election security:

Sec. 279.001.Definitions.

  1. "County election officer" means an individual employed by a county as an elections administrator, voter registrar, county clerk, or other officer with responsibilities relating to the administration of elections.
  2. "Election data" means information that is created or managed in the operation of an election system.
  3. "Election system" means a voting system and the technology used to support the conduct of an election, including the election data processed or produced in the course of conducting an election, such as voter registration information, ballot information, collected and tabulated votes, election management processes and procedures, and other election-related documents and election data. 

Sec. 279.002. Election Cybersecurity: Secretary of State. 

  1. The secretary of state shall adopt rules defining classes of protected election data and establishing best practices for identifying and reducing risk to the electronic use, storage, and transmission of election data and the security of election systems.
  2. The secretary of state shall offer training on best practices:
    1. on an annual basis, to all appropriate personnel in the secretary of state's office; and
    2. on request, to county election officers in this state.
  3. If the secretary of state becomes aware of a breach of cybersecurity that impacts election data, the secretary shall immediately notify the members of the standing committees of each house of the legislature with jurisdiction over elections.

Sec. 279.003. Election Cybersecurity: County Election Officers.

  1. A county election officer shall annually request training on cybersecurity from the secretary of state. The secretary of state shall pay the costs associated with the training with available state funds.
  2. A county election officer shall request an assessment of the cybersecurity of the county's election system from a provider of cybersecurity assessments if the secretary of state recommends an assessment and the necessary funds are available.
  3. If a county election officer becomes aware of a breach of cybersecurity that impacts election data, the officer shall immediately notify the secretary of state.
  4. To the extent that state funds are available for the purpose, a county election officer shall implement cybersecurity measures to ensure that all devices with access to election data comply to the highest extent possible with rules adopted by the secretary of state under Section 279.002.

Pre-Election Security Procedures:Subchapter C, Chapter 129 outlines our general voting system security procedures.

Sec. 129.051. Pre-election security procedure.

  1. The general custodian of election records shall create and maintain an inventory of all electronic information storage media.
  2. The general custodian of election records shall develop a procedure for tracking the custody of each electronic information storage medium from its storage location, through election coding and the election process, to its final post-election disposition and return to storage. The chain of custody must require two or more individuals to perform a check and verification check whenever a transfer of custody occurs.
  3. The general custodian of election records shall establish a secured location for storing electronic information storage media when not in use, coding a medium for an election, transferring and installing the medium into voting system equipment, and storing voting system equipment after election parameters are loaded.
  4. An election information storage medium shall be kept in the presence of an election official or in a secured location once the medium has been coded for an election.
  5. The general custodian of election records shall create a procedure for tracking the custody of voting system equipment once election parameters are loaded.
  6. The general custodian of election records shall create a recovery plan to be followed if a breach in security procedures is indicated. This plan must include immediately notifying the secretary of state.
  7. The general custodian of election records shall conduct a criminal background check for relevant election officials, staff, and temporary workers upon hiring.

Sec. 129.052. Transport of voting system equipment.

  1. The general custodian of election records shall adopt procedures for securely storing and transporting voting system equipment. The procedures shall include provisions for locations outside the direct control of the general custodian of election records, including overnight storage at a polling location. Procedures relating to the chain of custody must require two or more individuals to perform a check and verification check whenever a transfer of custody occurs.
  2. The general custodian of election records shall create a recovery plan to be followed if a breach in security procedures is indicated. This plan must include immediately notifying the secretary of state.
  3. The general custodian of election records shall provide a training plan for relevant election officials, staff, and temporary workers that addresses the procedures authorized under this section.

Sec. 129.053. Access to voting system equipment.

The general custodian of election records shall secure access control keys or passwords to voting system equipment. Use of access control keys or passwords must be witnessed by one or more individuals authorized to use that information. The use of an access control key or password must be documented and witnessed in a log dedicated for that purpose that is retained until the political subdivision disposes of the equipment.

Sec. 129.054. Network connections and wireless technology.

  1. A voting system may not be connected to any external communications network, including the Internet.
  2. A voting system may not have the capability of permitting wireless communication unless the system uses line-of-sight infrared technology that shields the transmitter and receiver from external infrared transmissions and the system can only accept transmissions generated by the system.

Sec. 129.055. Equipment and software.

The sole purpose of voting system equipment is the conduct of an election, and only software certified by the secretary of state and necessary for an election may be loaded on the equipment.

Sec. 129.056. Plan for machine failure.

The general custodian of election records shall create a contingency plan for addressing direct recording electronic voting machine failure. This plan must include the timely notification of the secretary of state.

Sec. 129.057. Use of machine in early voting.

A direct recording electronic voting machine deployed for early voting may not be deployed on Election Day.

In the polling place: Chapter 125 of the Texas Election Code provides procedures on inspecting equipment at the polling place before the polls open, during the course of the election, and after the polls close.

Sec. 125.005. Maintaining security of equipment during voting.

  1. The presiding judge shall periodically have an election officer inspect the voting system equipment for tampering and damage while voting is in process.
  2. If any tampering or damage is discovered, the inspecting officer shall immediately stop use of the equipment and report to the presiding judge, who shall promptly take appropriate action.

Sec. 125.061. Inspecting equipment at polling place.

  1. Before opening a polling place for voting on Election Day, the presiding judge shall inspect any electronic voting system equipment installed at the polling place to determine whether it is installed and functioning properly.
  2. The presiding judge shall take appropriate corrective action if the equipment is not installed or functioning properly.

Sec. 125.063. Securing equipment on close of voting.

On the close of voting at each polling place at which electronic voting system equipment is used, an election officer shall secure or inactivate the equipment as prescribed by the secretary of state so that its unauthorized operation is prevented.