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McNulty, Hickton to lead election security commission

Grove City College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 and University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security (Pitt Cyber) Founding Director David Hickton will lead an independent, non-partisan investigation into Pennsylvania election security.

Pitt Cyber announced the formation Thursday of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security, which is funded by a grant from The Heinz Endowments.

“This is precisely the type of effort needed to drive public and policymaker attention to a fundamental issue — the security of Pennsylvania’s vote. The recommendations of this non-partisan and independent commission will be a roadmap for Pennsylvania election officials, as well as a model for other states,” McNulty, the former U.S. Deputy Attorney General, said.

“I’m pleased to be co-chairing the Blue Ribbon Commission with President McNulty, who has led a distinguished career in government, legal and higher education circles. He is well qualified to undertake this important initiative on behalf of the Commonwealth,” Hickton, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania before joining Pitt Cyber, said.

The commission will conduct research surrounding:

  • Cybersecurity of voting machines, tabulation, and storage;
  • Cybersecurity of voter registration, rolls, and databases;
  • Resiliency and recovery of Pennsylvania’s electoral system following a potential breach.

The co-chairs laid out the problem and the commission’s goals in an op-ed published Thursday in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Read it here.

In addition to McNulty and Hickton, the commission’s members are distinguished leaders from many areas of expertise, including politics, law enforcement, technology and civil rights, including: Esther Bush, president of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh; Mark Holman, partner, Ridge Policy Group; Mark Nordenberg, chair of the Institute of Politics and chancellor emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh; Jim Roddey, former Allegheny County Chief Executive; and Dennis Yablonsky, former CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. See below for a full list of members.

Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania and U.S. Attorney General, Paul O’Neill, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Charlie Dent, U.S. Congressman, 15th District of Pennsylvania, will serve as senior advisors to the commission.

The Commission will present a report of findings to the public in 2019 that provides recommendations to local and state elected officials to better secure the state’s elections. The Commission encourages public comment to inform its work. Comments can be submitted on Pitt Cyber’s website at

In addition to The Heinz Endowments grant, the Commission will receive staffing support from Pitt Cyber, Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute CERT Division, and Verified Voting.

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