On June 20, 2018, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee held a hearing on election security preparations that are being made at the local and state level. The committee heard witness testimony from state and local officials, along with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Senior Cybersecurity Advisor, Matt Masterson.
Mr. Masterson told the committee that DHS is now beginning to include parties outside federal and state governments when protecting against cybersecurity attacks in our elections. He stated: “In addition to working directly with state and local officials, [DHS has] partnered with trusted third parties to analyze relevant cyber data.”
During the hearing, President-elect of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos spoke about the short and long term goals that state election officials have when it comes to protecting our elections. The goals he stated included: an online training environment for election officials, identifying resource gaps at the state level, and establishing a digital portal to increase communication between all levels. Through these methods states could improve cyber security efforts.
Secretary Condos did warn about certain dangers to elections that need to be improved upon. He specifically mentioned how online voter registration systems and election night reporting are at risk of being attacked. He emphasized how online voter registration systems and election night reporting are removed from the process of casting a ballot which minimizes the impact of cyberattacks on the election. If these systems are breached, he said “the vote count is not impacted.”
Missouri Secretary of State, Jay Ashcroft, mentioned in his testimony that no votes were altered in the 2016 election. He stated: “it is vitally important to understand that after two years of investigation there is no credible — and I can strike credible and just put evidence — there is no evidence that these incidents caused a single vote or a single voter registration to be improperly altered during the 2016 election cycle.” He continued to state that: “It was not our votes or our election systems that were hacked — it was the people’s perception of our elections.”
Overall, the hearing was beneficial to the committee in providing insight on how states were using the $380 million that Congress gave to them to improve election infrastructure. Many of the other state and local officials who spoke at the hearing told the committee that the money was going to be used to: 1) update outdated election systems, 2) train election officials, 3) move towards paper ballots, and 4) increase the methods of communication with the federal government and other trusted third parties.
Watch and read the testimonies of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee Hearing on Election Security here.