Election Security Task Force Releases Report and Legislation
Today, Congresswoman Val Demings and other members of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security released a report and new legislation (The Election Security Act) to secure America’s election infrastructure and prevent future interference in our democracy.
Said Rep. Demings, “Our Republic was founded on the belief that we—the American people—should be able to choose our future. Our most fundamental right is the right to cast a vote, for that vote to be counted, and for that count to matter. One person, one vote. Our democracy is the last true equalizer.
“However, our democracy is under attack. Russia targeted the 2016 election in at least 21 states, including Florida.
“The threat is real, and this crucial report is a first step to securing American elections and American freedom. Our voting system security has not kept pace with the current and emerging threats. That’s why I am introducing with my colleagues The Election Security Act to protect our democracy.”
The Congressional Task Force on Election Security is composed of six Members from the House Committees on Homeland Security and Administration.
The Task Force identified four state actors (Russia, North Korea, Iran, and China) with the potential capacity to interfere with U.S. elections. Russia has already done so.
In 2016, Russian influence campaigns created more than 1,000 YouTube videos, 130,000 tweets, and 80,000 Facebook posts, viewed by millions of people. Russian hackers also targeted voting systems in at least 21 states, including Florida, and sought to infiltrate the networks of voting equipment vendors, political parties, and at least one local election board.
Russia’s 2016 campaign included an attempted breach of Florida’s election system, in which 12 Florida Supervisors of Elections were targeted. This also included what the NSA calls a “likely” breach of VR Systems (though the company denies it), which is based in Florida and is the voting roll software provider for at least 58 counties in Florida.
While the state has made some efforts to secure its systems, additional federal action is needed. Certain federal agencies (such as the Election Assistance Commission and the Department of Homeland Security) play a supporting role to state agencies.
Provisions of The Election Security Act
Authorizes a $1 billion grant program to assist states in securing their election infrastructure
- Election officials seeking to replace aging voting machines can use this grant provided that paperless machines are replaced with voter-marked paper ballot voting systems.
- States may also use these grants to hire IT staff, provide cybersecurity training to election officials and poll workers, and take other steps to secure election infrastructure.
Provides states with ongoing funding to help them maintain their election infrastructure.
- Every two years, states will receive $1 per voter who participated in the most recent election.
Establishes a $20 million grant program for states to use in implementing risk-limiting audits.
- Risk-limiting audits involve hand counting a certain number of ballots and using statistical methods to determine the accuracy of the original vote tally.
- These audits are useful in detecting any incorrect election outcomes, whether caused by a cyberattack or something more mundane like a programming error.
Brings accountability to election technology vendors.
- Directs the Election Assistance Commission, along with the Department of Homeland Security, to put forth a set of criteria that would allow an election vendor to become a “qualified” election vendor.
- Creates a certification program for voter registration software.
Ensures states receive timely threat information
- Authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to expedite security clearances in order to provide timely threat information to state election officials.
Requires regular threat assessments
- The Director of National Intelligence is to assess the full scope of threats to election infrastructure and share his or her findings with Congress and each State’s chief election official at least 180 days prior to an election.
Develops a comprehensive effort to protect U.S. democratic institutions
- Establishes a bipartisan commission to counter efforts to undermine democratic institutions.
Creates an innovation grant program
- Grants will be awarded for research and development on improving the security, quality, reliability, accuracy, accessibility and affordability of election infrastructure.