Securing the Vote

Part of our "SNF Agora Conversations: Election 2020" series

Webcast recording

The 2020 election is happening amidst unprecedented disagreement about election security, as the coronavirus pandemic challenges traditional in-person voting. On the one hand, the incumbent president claims that postal voting will lead to widespread electoral fraud. On the other, Democrats argue that the U.S. postal system is being deliberately degraded to make it less likely that mailed ballots will be counted in time. Both political scientists who work on voting, and information security specialists, who think systematically about the failure modes, attack surfaces, and threat models of large information systems, can help us understand—and mitigate—the likely failures of large-scale voting systems operating under unexpected circumstances in a context of increased fear over manipulation.


  • Karen Brinson Bell is the Executive Director of the North Caroline Board of Elections. Bell is a multifaceted leader and certified project manager with more than 13 years of experience implementing and administering voter registration processes and voting systems for federal, state, county, and municipal elections.
  • Henry Farrell, moderator, is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute Professor of International Affairs at SAIS, 2019 winner of the Friedrich Schiedel Prize for Politics and Technology, and Editor in Chief of the Monkey Cage blog at the Washington Post
  • Bruce Schneier is an internationally renowned security technologist, called a “security guru” by The Economist. He is the author of over one dozen books–including his latest, Click Here to Kill Everybody. Schneier is a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.