WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 2, 2017) - Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, delivered back-to-back speeches on the Senate Floor to urge support for their bipartisan legislation to protect American election systems from foreign interference. The Securing America's Voting Equipment (SAVE) Act would help safeguard voting systems, registration data, and ballots from theft, manipulation, and malicious computer hackers.
Intelligence assessments that Russian actors targeted state election voting centers and state-level voter registration databases as part of Russia's larger hostile effort to interfere in last year's election demonstrate a vulnerability to future cyber-attacks and manipulations by foreign hackers in our democratic process. The SAVE Act would facilitate information sharing with states, provide guidelines for how best to secure election systems, and allow states to access funds to develop their own solutions to the threats posed to elections.
In order to ensure states can respond in real time to any potential issues or threats, the SAVE Act would require the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to sponsor security clearances to the officials responsible for the administration and certification of federal elections in each state, usually the secretaries of state. The DNI would then share all appropriate classified information with those state officials to protect election systems from security threats.
The SAVE Act would also permanently designate state-run election systems as critical infrastructure and require the Department of Homeland Security to work with states to develop best practices to address risks and create a federal grant program to help states upgrade the physical, electronic, and administrative components of their voting systems to defend against modern threats.
In a letter sent earlier this month, Senators Heinrich and Collins urged the Department of Homeland Security to bring together the expertise of the states and the financial and intelligence resources of the federal government to meet the challenge of protecting election infrastructure.
Specifically, the SAVE Act would:
- Authorize the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to provide a security clearance to the chief state election official of each state and one designee.
- Authorize the DNI to share appropriate classified information to the states related to threats to voting systems and the election process.
- Designate voting systems as critical infrastructure for the purposes of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
- Authorize the development of a threat assessment by the DHS on the physical and electronic risks to voting systems, and to develop best practices to address these risks.
- Authorize a grant program for states to upgrade their voting systems to ensure the integrity of the physical, electronic, and administrative components of the voting system based upon the threat assessment.
- Create a"CooperativeHack the Election" program to partner with vendors to discover new threats to electronic voting systems
- Mandate an audit by the Comptroller General to ensure that elections held using equipment using the grants have been conducted in a manner consistent with the program.