States are on front lines of 2020 election-security efforts

States are on front lines of 2020 election-security efforts
In this Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, photo, Mandy Vigil, from New Mexico, works during an exercise run by military and national security officials, for state and local election officials to simulate different scenarios for the 2020 elections, in Springfield, Va. These government officials are on the front lines of a different kind of high-stakes battlefield, one in which they are helping to defend American democracy by ensuring free and fair elections. (Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP) - Local officials once had limited responsibilities on election days. They’d keep track of who might show up at the polling stations and ensure all the equipment and supplies were in place.

Now they’re on the front lines of efforts to defend U.S. elections from an attack by Russia, China or other foreign threats.

The federal government will be gathering intelligence and scanning systems for suspicious cyber activity in the 2020 election. But it will be state and county officials on the ground, charged with identifying and dealing with any hostile acts.

Officials from 24 states recently attended election-security training held by the Defending Digital Democracy Project in Virginia.

The key message: Developing a military mindset will help them protect the integrity of the vote. Past and present national security leaders are urging state elections officials to consider themselves linchpins in efforts to defend U.S. elections.

The need for such training reflects how worries have grown in the aftermath of the 2016 election, when Russian military agents targeted voting systems across the U.S. as part of a broad effort to influence the presidential election.

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