Dems call for states to get $400M election security upgrades

Dems call for states to get $400M election security upgrades
© Getty Images

Two House Democrats are pressing their colleagues to allot $400 million for states to upgrade outdated voting equipment and secure their election systems.

Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and Robert Brady (Pa.) made the appeal in a letter to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee released on Monday. 

“We know that Russia launched an unprecedented assault on our elections in 2016, targeting 21 states’ voting systems, and we believe this money is necessary to protect our elections from future attack,” wrote the lawmakers. 

“When a sovereign nation attempts to meddle in our elections, it is an attack on our country,” they wrote. “We cannot leave states to defend against the sophisticated cyber tactics of state actors like Russia on their own.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

Thompson and Brady lead a Democratic task force focused on election security, which they formed over the summer after feeling that the committees they sit on were not giving enough attention to the issue of Russian interference. Thompson and Brady serve as the top Democrats on the House Homeland Security and House Administration committees, respectively. 

According to U.S. officials, Russia’s efforts included stealing emails from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Judiciary Committee subpoenas FBI agent who sent anti-Trump texts Clapper: Trump was serious when he said he wants citizens to act like North Koreans do for Kim Hillary Clinton: Fundamental rights are 'under assault like never before' MORE's campaign chairman, as well as targeting voting systems not involved in vote tabulations in 21 states. Broadly, the targeting mostly involved preparations for hacking, such as probing for vulnerabilities. In Arizona and Illinois, hackers breached voter registration databases.

The Department of Homeland Security is working with states to help them ensure that their voting systems are secure.

In the letter, Thompson and Brady requested that lawmakers designate the remaining $400 million from the Help America Vote Act, a law passed in 2002 to reform to the voting process, for states to secure election infrastructure.

They pointed to the need for states to upgrade outdated voting technology, including vote-tallying systems that rely on old operating systems such as Windows XP, and those that are entirely paperless and thus do not have a paper backup that can be audited in the event a tally is called into question. 

The lawmakers also sounded alarm over the possibility that hackers could penetrate voter registration databases to alter or delete records and as a result cause “chaos."

The task force, which released a set of preliminary recommendations last week, heard from state officials in October who said Congress needs to give more resources to states to tackle election cybersecurity. 

The House passed a $1.2 trillion appropriations package for 2018 back in September, but still faces a deadline to finalize government spending for the fiscal year in December.