Election security bills face hurdles in 2019

House Democrats will likely push new election security legislation in 2019, but obstacles remain in the Senate and the White House.

election security (Shutterstock.com)
 

House Democrats will likely push new election security legislation in 2019 when they take over the majority, but obstacles remain in the Senate and the White House. On the administrative side, the Department of Homeland Security and state governments will look to build on cooperative efforts that resulted in the apparently successful 2018 mid-term elections.

In the wake of the 2016 elections, state governments, experts and members of Congress have beat the drum for federal legislation to comprehensively address critical cybersecurity flaws in the nation's election systems. Even after an infusion of $380 million in leftover Help America Vote Act grant funding earlier this year, many states say they continue to face major funding challenges.

Earlier this year, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), incoming chair for the House Homeland Security Committee, called the grants "a drop in the bucket" compared to what is needed to secure election systems nationwide. Thompson filed legislation in February that would establish an ongoing pot of money for states to draw from through 2025, phase out reliance on paperless voting machines and boost the number of states who use risk limiting audits to ensure the integrity of election results.

When Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is sworn in as Speaker of the House in January, one of her first actions is expected to be H.R. 1, a massive piece of legislation that seeks major reforms campaign finance laws, gerrymandering and expanding access to the vote. Large elements of Thompson's bill, in particular regular grant funding for security upgrades, are also expected to be included in the package, according to aides on the House Homeland Security Committee.

While that will provide a vehicle for election reform to pass the House, it will likely only represent the opening gambit, as the Republican-controlled Senate is expected to reject the measure, if they even bring it to the floor.

Thompson plans to use his committee's oversight powers to hold regular hearings to keep the election security issue in the.

"Democrats will continue to lead on cybersecurity and will look into all threats to our elections as soon as we take charge in January," he said.

There is bipartisan support in the Senate for the Secure Elections Act, sponsored by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) However, Republican leaders have thus far refused to pass the bill out of committee after organizations like the National Association of Secretaries of State and the White House complained about federal mandates around grant funding and auditing.

Some Democratic lawmakers say the White House, not a lack of votes, are the chief obstacles to passing election security reform.

"I don't make political predictions that often, but I bet if [the Secure Elections Act] got to the floor it would get at least 80 votes in the Senate and with the Democrats taking control of the House, it would clearly pass the House," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on Dec. 7. "The objection has come from the White House and what I would hate to have is some other event where we see…an intervention to then force us to act."

Lankford has said, White House officials have been "clear" that they were attempting to alter, not sink, the bill. A spokesperson for Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told FCW in August that Republican Senators were also wavering on the bill before it was pulled.

Beyond legislation, state governments continue access DHS resources, including such as sensors around election infrastructure and vulnerability scans. Chris Krebs, director of the department's cyber wing, has praised the improved relationship between states and DHS over the past two years, saying it can serve as a model for future cybersecurity cooperatives between the federal government, states and industry.

The agency has also taken steps to publicly encourage state governments to discontinue their reliance on paperless Direct Recording Electronic machines, which experts believe are all but impossible to effectively audit for signs of vote manipulation. Krebs has said "the market is moving away" from DRE's as states and vendors adapt to heightened security expectations.

Only 14 states still use them and in the past two years, Virginia and Pennsylvania have mandated that all counties move to paper-based machines, while a lawsuit in Georgia may force state officials to do the same before the 2020 elections.

One event that could spur further action is an interagency assessment due to be completed early next year between intelligence agencies, the Department of Justice and DHS detailing whether there is any evidence of foreign-directed interference in the 2018 elections.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed to FCW that it will pass its assessment along to DHS and DOJ on Dec. 21, and those agencies will have 45 days to conduct their own assessment. If all parties agree, automatic economic, diplomatic and travel sanctions would kick in for any affected countries or entities.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.