Evaluating Mail-Based Security for Electoral Processes Using Attack Trees

Since the reports of Russian interference in the 2016 United States General Election, the security of voting processes has received increased attention from both state and federal authorities. The declaration by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in January 2017 that election systems be classified as the seventeenth component of critical infrastructure is just the beginning of a need for more secure voting processes. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 U.S. General Election has placed greater emphasis specifically on mail-based voting processes for electoral systems. The objective of this research is to provide greater insight into potential threats to mail-based voting processes.

Vote-by-Mail Policy and the 2020 Presidential Election

A recent study of mail-ballot use and voter participation found that turnout increased an average of 5.6% during the 2020 presidential election in states that mailed a ballot to every registered voter. The effects of mail-ballot delivery were even greater in jurisdictions with historically low mail-ballot usage, boosting turnout by as much as 8%.

The Secret Success of Mailed-out Ballot Access Policies Nationwide

Much has been written about the success of temporary policies states put in place for mailed-out ballot access during the 2020 election due to the pandemic. The resulting use of those ballots, and the percentage of the popular vote they represented was indeed stunning. But an untold story, until now, is how rapidly voters across the country have had their access to mailed-out ballots improved on a permanent policy basis. Here are some of the details that drive the accompanying graphic.