Senators Push Election Security in Defense Bill

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In an attempt to expedite legislation to secure US election systems, senators have introduced a new version of the Secure Elections Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

With discussions of the NDAA reportedly on next week's agenda, Sens. James Lankford (R-Olka.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) – backed by bipartisan cosponsors – have inserted their legislation as part of the annual defense policy legislation, according to The Hill.

In December of last year, after it was confirmed that Russian hackers had attempted to influence the 2016 election by targeting the election-related systems in 21 states, lawmakers introduced the Secure Elections Act, aimed at fortifying election systems.

Leading the effort to mitigate the risk of any foreign interference in future elections, Sens. Lankford and Klobuchar have since been revising the legislation amid concerns of the federal government taking over control of elections.

“The security of our election systems is a major national security issue, and it is appropriate for this legislation to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act,” Lankford said in a statement. “This legislation will help states prepare our election infrastructure for the possibility of interference from Russia, Iran, North Korea, or a domestic hacktivist group.”

The most recent version of the bill has eliminated a grant program that was originally intended to aid states in updating vulnerable systems; however, a recently approved omnibus package reportedly negated the need for such a grant, as the package includes $380m for states to secure their election systems. That money is to be distributed across all 50 states.

According to John Sebes, co-founder of the OSET Institute and CTO of its TrustTheVote Project, and William Crowell partner at Alsop Louie Partners, “The recent $380 million of federal funding to replace paperless voting machinery and improve cybersecurity is desperately needed, but it is unlikely to ensure the long-term cybersecurity of U.S. election technology.”

As the nation coasts toward the 2018 midterm election, “there are likely a number of vulnerabilities that states may not even be aware of yet,” wrote Sergio Valente, author, OSET Institute, “not to mention budget constraints and a lack of clarity whether states’ allocations of the recent $380 million of federal funding to improve cybersecurity or replace paperless voting machines will have desired impact in time.”

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