A federal agency has told rural counties and small towns how to safeguard their elections, but not all can afford the fixes

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The federal agency charged pinch safeguarding nan nation’s elections has provided recommendations to agrarian counties and mini towns connected really to protect their computers and nan sites wherever they count votes, but immoderate of those communities opportunity they don’t person nan money to make nan fixes up of November’s election.

Jen Easterly, head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which oversees national predetermination information efforts, said that after nan 2022 midterms her agency heard from agrarian areas that they needed other thief pinch predetermination security. She said that CISA, formed successful 2018, is committed to providing it.

“States to this constituent successful time, they person beautiful bully resources and capabilities to woody pinch nan afloat scope of threats,” Easterly said. “But astatine nan section level, townships, municipalities, counties, that’s wherever we person a situation for resources. So that’s wherever we’ve been focused.”

But NBC News said to 17 predetermination officials from smaller jurisdictions successful 8 states who said they interest communities for illustration theirs aren’t getting nan money they request from their counties, states aliases Washington, D.C., to make severely needed information upgrades.

The officials were not worried astir ballot outcomes being manipulated, but astir beingness threats to predetermination offices and predetermination workers. Several clerks told NBC News that their jobs person drastically changed successful caller years because of rising threats posed by group who judge disinformation online that Donald Trump won nan 2020 predetermination and person shown up wherever votes are being counted, often intimidating predetermination workers.

In Jackson County, Oregon, County Clerk Chris Walker recalls nan threat her unit received in 2020 correct aft nan statesmanlike election, which Trump and galore of his supporters said was stolen. In ample letters successful a parking batch crossed nan street, personification painted “Vote don’t work, adjacent clip bullets.”

“I would not beryllium truthful if I didn’t show you I person mislaid sleep,” Walker said. “The occupation … has wholly changed.”

A information advisor from CISA had travel to sojourn Jackson County 11 months anterior to nan incident and suggested making upgrades to nan CCTV strategy and outdoor lighting, but Walker could not spend to adhd cameras successful nan parking batch crossed nan thoroughfare wherever nan threat was painted. 

“We sewage recommendations to amended unafraid our facility. But it’s a activity successful progress. You’re ne'er capable to do everything each astatine once,” Walker said.

Across nan state, successful Harney County, Oregon, County Clerk Dag Robinson has akin fears astir threats to his predetermination workers. In November, his mini unit will count votes successful nan region courthouse, which has a parking batch that was utilized arsenic a staging area in 2016 by a militia that was occupying nan adjacent Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

“It was 41 days of hellhole for anyone who worked successful this building,” Robinson said.

Harney County Clerk Dag RobinsonHarney County Clerk Dag Robinson says he erstwhile brought successful equipped guards from different region to protect staffers who were counting votes.NBC News

During a callback predetermination pursuing nan occupation, Robinson brought successful equipped guards from a neighboring region to protect unit counting nan ballots. But he won’t beryllium capable to get those guards during a wide predetermination erstwhile they are utilized by their ain county.

CISA besides sent him recommendations, specified arsenic protecting his powerfulness sources, arming nan doors and mounting up a obstruction betwixt observers and ballot counters, but he hasn’t been capable to spend those.

“They’ve pointed retired issues that we request to woody pinch and person fixed america immoderate avenues for immoderate thief for that, but they don’t connection really immoderate backing for that,” Robinson said.

Across nan country, successful Shutesbury, Massachusetts, municipality clerk Grace Bannasch is worried astir nan upwind aliases thing that could disturb her machine and powerfulness system, since nan municipality lacks an IT department.

She recalls nan nighttime earlier past year’s section elections wherever she had to grease up her limb to scope down an ancient table to find a backup powerfulness source. She was thankful she did because she did suffer powerfulness concisely during nan predetermination nan adjacent day. Having a generator connected site, aliases an IT section to call, would thief alleviate her concerns, but nan municipality is incapable to spend it.

Bannasch said she recognizes that nan national authorities is intentionally constricted successful its engagement successful elections, to instill assurance that location has been nary interference, but she thinks it could play a larger role.

“I deliberation nan exertion facet is simply a spot wherever nan national authorities tin perfectly measurement up and support without having nan expertise to interfere" successful elections, Bannasch said.

CISA's Easterly said her agency points section jurisdictions to places wherever they tin activity assistance backing astatine nan authorities and national level.

Brianna Lennon, who manages elections arsenic nan clerk successful Boone County, Missouri, said nan process of seeking money tin beryllium prohibitively expensive. Some towns and counties don’t person nan unit to taxable assistance applications and make judge they stay successful compliance.

Easterly encouraged states to put much successful voting information for their towns and counties. Said Easterly, “States besides request to attraction connected this connected a matter of apical priority, peculiarly arsenic we spell into this statesmanlike predetermination year.”

Julia Ainsley

Julia Ainsley is homeland information analogous for NBC News and covers nan Department of Homeland Security and nan Justice Department for nan NBC News Investigative Unit.

Kevin Collier