Senator Lankford Continues to Push Congress to Strengthen Election Security
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WASHINGTON, DC –Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate about the Secure Elections Act and the need for Congress to pass legislation to strengthen US election cybersecurity. The purpose of the bill is 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. Lankford introduced a revised version of the bill in March 2018. The Senate Rules Committee postponed a markup today on the Secure Elections Act.
Yesterday, Lankford testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing entitled “Cyber Threats to Our Nation’s Critical Infrastructure.” During the hearing, Lankford outlined why it is important to pass a Congressional response immediately.
Lankford is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
(0:00-0:55) Yesterday, Facebook, Google, and Twitter removed hundreds of pages, groups, and accounts from Iranian and Russian individuals that had a coordinated attack that tried to influence our elections. This week…conservative think-tanks, Republican groups, and Senate official sites were targeted by Russian hackers. Today, Democratic National Committee just detected and announced what it believes is a sophisticated attack to try to hack into its database system. Very similar to the attack that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had during the 2016 election time period. And then today, we postponed, in the Senate, a committee debating election security.
(0:59-1:41) Clearly, states like Russia, Iran, North Korea and others are trying to influence our elections. They demonstrated the capability, the wiliness, the intent to come after us to try to influence us. They’re looking for vulnerabilities in states, not to necessarily pick one candidate over another but to be able to sow chaos and to be able to use this information against us. The same nation states are also pursuing independent hackers, not necessarily working for their government at all, just individual hackers that are willing to be hired out to be able to do whatever these nation states want them to do or to be able to hack in to get information and then sell that information to a nation state that might be interested in it.
(1:422:23) Election security is not a partisan issue it is a democracy issue. And we should take the security of our next election seriously just like we take the security of our infrastructure seriously, our banking systems seriously, our power and electrical grid, our water—these are areas that need to be secured. And, I am disappointed that there was yet another delay in working through that on election security. But, I do appreciate the work of the Rules Committee and what they’re doing to continue to refine this, and I do anticipate in the days ahead we will have a hearing on this issue and it will move to this floor for final passage.
(3:12-3:53) I’ve heard the arguments on the bill and on information sharing. But I would say that it’s clear that an attack on any one state, on any one county, could jeopardize the integrity of the nation’s election security system. …five states in the United States right now and as of this election coming up in November will not be able to even do a post-[election] audit…on their system. Five states. Nine additional states have some counties within their state that cannot do a post-election audit.
(4:01-4:41) The bill that’s coming through on the Secure Elections Act, that myself and Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota are trying and working so hard to be able to work through the system allows the states to still run their own election system, allows for the flexibility of the states that they absolutely need in the vendors that they choose to use, and all the details that they choose to do in that but it requires a simple ability to audit their systems after it’s over. So that no nation-state, so that no hackers can stand up and say we did it and there’s no way to be able to prove them wrong. Audits are not recounts. Audits just give voters confidence that the vote that they cast is counted.
(4:43-5:21) To be clear, we have advanced a tremendous amount since the 2016 election time period. Department of Homeland Security has done a lot to be able to protect our system. States have stepped up significantly to be able to protect their systems. But, there is more to go. DHS now has security clearances for election officials or the capability to do immediate security conversations with every single state in the United States. That’s important because in 2016 that didn’t occur. The communication about the threat that was coming at the United States couldn’t be communicated to the states sometimes for months sometimes for over a year. That’s been fixed.
(6:52-7:41) At the end of the day, states are going to control their elections, but I don’t expect every state in the United States to protect themselves against a foreign attack. That is the responsibility of the federal government… So, we’re trying to hit this balance with the Secure Elections Act—states still run their elections, federal government does their part and the American do their part by stepping up to be able to vote with confidence to know that their vote actually counts. Congress needs to pass this legislation. We need to move it across the committee line and across this floor because the election issues we are facing right now are not going away and they are not getting easier. States could use our help. It’s about time we step up and do it.