In-Depth: Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) introduced this bill to ensure that elections systems vendors are domestically held:
“It’s alarming that so much of our elections systems could be controlled by foreign-owned entities. This legislation will prevent this from happening again. Our election systems are targets of attacks, and we must take steps to harden and protect our democratic institutions. The integrity and security of our elections transcends partisanship.”
The Brennan Center for Justice supports bolstering state and local election systems to prevent foreign interference and hacking:
“When the history of the 2016 election is written, one of the leading narratives is likely to be how foreign powers tried to influence its outcome. This foreign interference in the presidential election exposed cracks in the security of America’s electoral system, the most fundamental part of our democracy. News reports revealed that hackers working on behalf of the Russian government targeted state and local voter registration databases and managed to access elections systems in as many as 39 states. The attack shows that our current election systems are susceptible to foreign interference, and will only become more vulnerable as hacking methods are refined… While localities have already taken steps to tackle such problems, national solutions are needed to ensure the integrity of upcoming elections in 2018, 2020, and beyond.”
A bipartisan group of state AGs has written to Congress expressing their concern over the integrity of the American election system and urging Congress to take steps to protect state election systems from foreign interference:
“[I]t has never been more important to maintain confidence in our democratic voting process. It is imperative that we protect the integrity of our elections. We must ensure that the upcoming 2018 midterm elections are secure and untainted.”
In their letter, the state AGs requested that Congress: (1) prioritize and act on election-security legislation, (2) increase funding for the EAC to support election security improvements at the state level, and to protect voters’ personal data; and (3) support the development of cybersecurity standards for voting systems to prevent potential future foreign attacks.
A similar bill, the Secure Elections Act, failed to pass the Senate Rules and Administration Committee due to White House opposition. At the time, Lindsay Walters, a White House spokesperson, said the government, and mainly DHS, “has all the statutory authority it needs to assist state and local officials to improve the security of existing election infrastructure.”
This bill has the support of 13 cosponsors, including two Republicans and 11 Democrats.
Of Note: This bill was prompted by the FBI’s revelation that ByteGrid LLC, a firm used by Maryland for elections data, has ties to Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. ByteGrid, which owns the servers that hold the data for voter registration, election management, and election night results for Maryland, is not currently under suspicion of election tampering. However, Maryland officials have asked their state Attorney General and federal officials to help the State Board of Elections review the system.
In 2015, Russian investors — including Potanin — bought an ownership stake in ByteGrid. The company neglected to tell Maryland about this deal at the time.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / hermosawave)