On Tuesday, the Voting System Cybersecurity Act of 2019 was introduced into the United States Senate, demonstrating a bi-partisan commitment to securing our election administration and infrastructure. The legislation, if passed in both chambers, would add a representative of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to the Election Assistance Commission’s Technical Guidelines Committee. While the text of this legislation is not yet available, from reports it sounds like it would increase information sharing from the Department of Homeland Security to election officials without giving DHS increased control over election security standards, which would still be under the final control of the EAC commissioners.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator James Lankford, stated that “Congress should continue to take steps to ensure our elections are secure. Every state is responsible for their elections, but the federal government should provide insight to help states protect against foreign cyber actors…we must continue to think about present elections and elections 20 years from now.”
Lankford’s comments reflect a keen awareness of the fact that one of the most important safeguards to election security is the decentralized nature of our elections . Federal support and assistance and information sharing from DHS is vital to counteracting threats; however, strong local autonomy over election systems can increase voter confidence in election security and help protect the election systems. By having cybersecurity experts at the table to recommend guidelines, sensible national standards can be more effective while election officials retain the ability to determine the best ways to protect their election systems.
Senator Ron Johnson, a co-sponsor, echoed this in stating “It’s important for the experts who secure our nation’s election infrastructure to have a seat at the table. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this commonsense legislation to help strengthen our election security measures.”