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It remains unclear how many of Warner’s colleagues agree with him. But when WIRED surveyed the other 23 Republican secretaries who oversee elections in their states, several of them said they would continue working with CISA.

“The agency has been beneficial to our office by providing information and resources as it pertains to cybersecurity,” says JoDonn Chaney, a spokesperson for Missouri’s Jay Ashcroft.

South Dakota’s Monae Johnson says her office “has a good relationship with its CISA partners and plans to maintain the partnership.”

But others who praised CISA’s support also sounded notes of caution.

Idaho’s Phil McGrane says CISA is doing “critical work … to protect us from foreign cyber threats.” But he also tells WIRED that the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC), a public-private collaboration group that he helps oversee, “is actively reviewing past efforts regarding mis/disinformation” to determine “what aligns best” with CISA’s mission.

Mississippi’s Michael Watson says that “statements following the 2020 election and some internal confidence issues we’ve since had to navigate have caused concern.” As federal and state officials gear up for this year’s elections, he adds, “my hope is CISA will act as a nonpartisan organization and stick to the facts.”

CISA’s relationships with Republican secretaries are “not as strong as they’ve been before,” says John Merrill, who served as Alabama’s secretary of state from 2015 to 2023. In part, Merrill says, that’s because of pressure from the GOP base. “Too many conservative Republican secretaries are not just concerned about how the interaction with those federal agencies is going, but also about how it’s perceived … by their constituents.”

Free Help at Risk

CISA’s defenders say the agency does critical work to help underfunded state and local officials confront cyber and physical threats to election systems.

The agency’s career civil servants and political leaders “have been outstanding” during both the Trump and Biden administrations, says Minnesota secretary of state Steve Simon, a Democrat.

Others specifically praised CISA’s coordination with tech companies to fight misinformation, arguing that officials only highlighted false claims and never ordered companies to delete posts.

“They’re just making folks aware of threats,” says Arizona’s Democratic secretary of state, Adrian Fontes. The real “bad actors,” he says, are the people who “want the election denialists and the rumor-mongers to run amok and just spread out whatever lies they want.”

If Republican officials begin disengaging from CISA, their states will lose critical security protections and resources. CISA sponsors the EI-ISAC, which shares information about threats and best practices for thwarting them; provides free services like scanning election offices’ networks for vulnerabilities, monitoring those networks for intrusions and reviewing local governments’ contingency plans; and convenes exercises to test election officials’ responses to crises.

“For GOP election officials to back away from [CISA] would be like a medical patient refusing to accept free wellness assessments, check-ups, and optional prescriptions from one of the world’s greatest medical centers,” says Eddie Perez, a former director for civic integrity at Twitter and a board member at the OSET Institute, a nonprofit group advocating for improved election technology.