WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined James Lankford (R-Okla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in introducing a revised Secure Elections Act, a bill to strengthen election cybersecurity in America. The Senators originally introduced the legislation in December, and have since worked with stakeholders to revise and strengthen the bill. With today’s reintroduction, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) also co-sponsored the bill.
The revised legislation maintains the original purpose of the bill to streamline cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence entities and state election agencies; provide security clearances to state election officials; and provide support for state election cybersecurity infrastructure. The updated bill modifies reporting requirements for state election offices, transitions the election security advisory panel from the Department of Homeland Security to the US Election Assistance Commission; and makes grants eligible to local jurisdictions, among several other minor modifications.
The omnibus spending bill that the Senate will soon vote on includes election security funding that was first proposed in the Secure Elections Act. The spending bill provides $380 million for states to make election security improvements, implement cybersecurity guidelines, and replace outdated electronic voting machines.
“Our democracy hinges on Americans' ability to fairly choose our own leaders. As we approach the midterm elections and the next presidential election cycle, we need to act quickly to protect the integrity of our voting process,” said Heinrich. “Our bipartisan legislation will improve and modernize protections for our voting systems, registration data, and ballots to prevent theft, manipulation, and malicious computer hacking. Until we take these necessary steps, our nation's democratic institutions will remain vulnerable.”
“Our democracy is under attack by foreign actors who seek to undermine and destabilize our country,” said Chairman Burr. “This bill will help strengthen our cybersecurity heading into upcoming election cycles, and has provisions to ensure that threat information is promptly shared with the states.”
“Elections – at all levels – are central to our democracy, to our institutions and to our government’s legitimacy,” said Vice Chairman Warner. “During the 2016 campaign, we saw unprecedented targeting of election infrastructure by Russian actors. As we’ve heard in recent weeks from our nation’s top intelligence officials, the Russians will continue to attack our elections. We need to make sure states and localities have the resources and federal support they need to make election security a top priority.”
“This week’s Intelligence Committee hearing confirmed the need for America to make the security of election infrastructure a priority,” said Lankford. “During the 2016 election, Russian entities hacked presidential campaign accounts, launched cyber-attacks against at least 21 state election systems, and attacked a US voting systems software company. This revised Secure Elections Act adequately helps our states prepare our election infrastructure for the possibility of interference from not just Russia, but possibly Iran or North Korea or a hacktivist group. Although funding for election security was included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill, Congress still must pass this legislation to put these reforms into law.”
“We know—and our top intelligence officials have confirmed—that our election systems remain a target,” said Klobuchar, who is also Ranking Member of the Rules Committee with jurisdiction over federal elections. “The bipartisan group of co-sponsors on the Secure Elections Act have been working with state election officials and the Department of Homeland Security to improve this bill and ensure those on the front-lines of administering elections are equipped with the information and resources necessary to keep them safe. This week we made progress by securing $380 million in funding, but it’s not enough. There are 227 days until the next federal election and primaries have already begun, Congress should pass the bipartisan Secure Elections Act immediately.”
“Election security is not a bipartisan issue, it’s a nonpartisan issue,” said Harris. “With 2018 elections across country underway, the urgency to act is clear. We need to improve communication between states and federal authorities, fortify and upgrade election infrastructure, and implement best practices. We know there will be a new set of threats this year and we must be prepared to meet them.”
“While our investigation is still ongoing, we know for certain that the Russians were relentless in their efforts to meddle in the 2016 elections, and that those efforts are ongoing,” said Collins. “This bipartisan legislation will strengthen the integrity of our election process by ensuring that local voting officials have the information and financial resources they need to secure their voting systems. Given that we are already in an election year, the need to act now is urgent.”
“The Russians have been trying to break the backs of democracies all over the world,”said Graham. “And although they did not change the outcome, they clearly interfered in our 2016 election. This bipartisan legislation will help defend our elections from foreign interference and sends a strong signal to other bad actors – like Iran and North Korea -- that similar acts will not be tolerated. We are committed to defending and promoting confidence in American democracy by providing states with the resources they need to safeguard their election systems.”