Senators Lankford and Klobuchar Urge Department of Homeland Security to Prioritize Election Cybersecurity
WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have written the new Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen to urge the Department to prioritize election cybersecurity.
In today’s letter, Klobuchar and Lankford call on DHS Secretary Nielsen to do more to fully protect our systems, including improving information-sharing between states and the federal government and providing states with resources, best practices, and manpower to help combat attacks and update voting technology. The senators, along with Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as original cosponsors, have also developed bipartisan legislation, to be introduced Thursday, to require DHS cooperation and leadership on establishing information-sharing processes and improving election cybersecurity.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, Klobuchar also led a group of 26 senators in calling for a full account of the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) efforts to address Russian cybersecurity threats. Senator Lankford serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating foreign interference during the 2016 presidential campaign and election.
A PDF of the letter is available here, and the full text is below:
Dear Secretary Nielsen,
We write to express concern about the security of U.S. election systems and to urge you to prioritize election cybersecurity as you begin your tenure as Secretary.
Election security is national security, and our election systems have become a target for foreign adversaries. Intelligence reports make it clear that Russia hacked presidential campaign accounts from both parties, launched cyberattacks against at least 21 state election systems, attacked a U.S. voting systems software company, and illegally obtained emails from more than 100 local election officials. National security officials continue to sound the alarm that our voting systems will remain a target in future elections.
In response to these attacks on our election system, in January 2017 the Department of Homeland Security determined that election infrastructure should be designated as a subsector of the existing Government Facilities critical infrastructure sector. This was an important step towards ensuring that election systems, including voting machines, voter registration databases, and other systems used to administer elections and store election data are prioritized and protected. However, more must be done to fully protect our systems.
For example, we must improve information sharing between the federal government and states regarding threats and ensure that security clearances for appropriate state election officials are expedited so that they can receive relevant information. We must also provide states with resources, best practices and manpower to help combat attacks and update voting technology. State and local election officials are on the front lines of our democratic process. It is wrong to leave them defenseless against sophisticated cyber hackers backed by the Kremlin and other adversaries.
We have worked across the aisle with colleagues from both the Senate and the House to develop legislation that would help protect our election systems. Our Senate legislation requires DHS cooperation and leadership on establishing information sharing processes and improving election cybersecurity. Given your significant experience across administrations, within the Department, and on issues of cybersecurity, we are hopeful that under your leadership DHS will make securing our election infrastructure a top priority.
We must do everything in our power to protect our democracy from future attacks. Time is of the essence, the next federal election is less than a year away.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter, I look forward to working with you.