Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) joined U.S. Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in introducing the bipartisan Secure Elections Act, a bill to strengthen election cybersecurity in America and protect against foreign interference in future elections.
During the 2016 election, intelligence reports have factually established that Russia hacked presidential campaign accounts, launched cyberattacks against at least 21 state election systems, and attacked a US voting systems software company. While there is no evidence that a single vote outcome was tampered with, this dangerous precedent should be a wake-up call as we head into the 2018 election cycle. To protect against these threats, the Secure Elections Act streamlines cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence entities and state election agencies; provides security clearances to state election officials; and provides support for state election cybersecurity operations. This bipartisan solution to fix these existing problems aims to bolster our election systems against future threats while protecting states’ primacy in running elections.
“Our democracy hinges on protecting Americans' ability to fairly choose our own leaders. We must do everything we can to protect the security and integrity of our elections,” said Heinrich. “As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I remain committed to uncovering the full extent of Russia's interference in the 2016 election and ensuring that we create protections against similar actions from foreign actors going forward. The U.S. needs to 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.”
“Safe and free elections run by individual states are at the core of our national identity,” said Lankford. “We were born as a nation because patriots stood up against foreign tyranny. During the 2016 elections, Russia tried to interfere in our elections. Although they didn’t change actual votes or alter the outcome, their efforts were an attack on our democracy. It is imperative that we strengthen our election systems and give the states the tools they need to protect themselves and the integrity of voters against the possibility of foreign interference. In this new digital age, we should ensure the states have the resources they need to protect our election infrastructure."
“Election security is national security, and our election systems have become a target for foreign adversaries,” said Klobuchar. “The freedom to choose our leaders and know with full confidence that those leaders were chosen in free and fair elections is something that Americans have fought and died for since our country was founded. We must do everything in our power to protect our democracy from future attacks, and ensure those on the front-lines of administering elections are equipped with the tools and resources necessary to keep them safe. Time is of the essence, the next federal election is less than a year away.”
“Russia attacked the very heart of our democracy when they interfered in the 2016 election,” said Harris. “With the 2018 elections just around the corner, Russia will be back to interfere again. We must act now to fortify our election system against attacks by foreign powers in a way that is smart and allows for effective communication and information-sharing between election and intelligence officials.”
“While there is no indication that the Russians were able to change vote totals, we know that Russian actors repeatedly tried to breach state election systems or public websites,” said Collins. “Our 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. These safeguards will protect and bolster public confidence in our elections.”
“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.”
Details of Secure Elections Act:
- Reaffirms individual state leadership in administering federal elections.
- Ensures the federal government promptly shares election cybersecurity threats and information with state, county, and municipal election agencies.
- Provides security clearances to appropriate state officials so they can access and act quickly on classified cybersecurity information.
- Develops, through a panel of independent experts and an open process, a set of voluntary cybersecurity guidelines for election-related systems.
- Provides grants to states for implementation of the cybersecurity guidelines and replacing outdated electronic voting machines.