WASHINGTON, D.C. - At a press conference today in the Capitol, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined members of the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence to preview the Committee's findings and recommendations on threats to election infrastructure.
Senator Heinrich has led bipartisan efforts to strengthen election cybersecurity in America and protect against foreign threats. He introduced the Secure Elections Act to improve and modernize protections for our voting systems, registration data, and ballots to prevent theft, manipulation, and malicious computer hacking. Yesterday, Senator Heinrich joined U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) in sending a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security calling on the Department to step up its efforts to protect the United States from Russian interference in our elections. In their letter, Senators Heinrich and Collins requested that the Department inform Congress about any additional authority or resources that it requires to ensure that state election agencies have the resources they need to secure their voting systems.
The Senate Select Committee On Intelligence’s initial recommendations released today are available here. An open hearing on election security will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, March 20, at 9:30 a.m. ET/7:30 a.m. MT.
Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery at the press conference are below.
I have been proud of how our whole Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Warner, has taken on the task of getting to the bottom of Russia's interference in our election.
Because we all recognize that our democracy fundamentally hinges on protecting Americans' ability to fairly choose our own leaders.
Until we set up stronger protections of our election systems and take the necessary steps to prevent future foreign intervention, our nation's democratic institutions will remain vulnerable to attack.
I'd like to echo what Senator Collins just said about the importance of ensuring our state election offices are equipped to respond to threats and keep our voting systems secure.
As we have been working to address election security, I've consulted closely with New Mexico's Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who runs our state elections and has been a national leader in securing local voting systems against cyber threats.
State election officials like her should have the security clearances and the support from federal agencies so that they can respond to threats in real time.
The federal government also needs to work to attribute cyber attacks more quickly and with more confidence.
Foreign adversaries and bad actors engage in cyber attacks because they are generally easy to deny.
But we cannot allow that deniability to shield those hostile actors from accountability.
We have no doubt that Russia - and other foreign adversaries and malicious actors - will continue to target our elections and try to undermine our democracy.
We must be able to call them out and make it clear that these actions are unacceptable.
Finally, we believe that states should consider implementing more widespread, statistically sound audits of election results.
Americans must be confident that their votes - and only their votes - are what counts in electing our public leaders.
Audits - and risk-limiting audits in particular - go a long way to make sure our voting systems are working as they should and that the integrity of our elections is protected.
As we approach the midterm elections and the next presidential election cycle, we need to act quickly to pass these bipartisan, pragmatic recommendations into law to protect the integrity of our voting process.