Lawmakers weigh federal role in preventing election hacks

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The House Science Committee met Tuesday to discuss efforts to safeguard the November elections from hacking threats, with lawmakers pressing officials on the potential danger and the federal response.

Concerns over an election hack have grown after recent breaches to Illinois and Arizona’s online voter registration databases and the Democratic National Committee email hack.

{mosads}“Rightly, we should be concerned about the integrity of our election system,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), who pressed witnesses on whether elections should be treated as critical infrastructure requiring federal support.

“Typically, whatever we get involved with doesn’t run as well as if the state is doing it themselves,” he cautioned.

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler (R) said he did not think that designation was “at all” needed.

“I don’t mean to be flippant, but do we really want to create a new TSA of elections in this country?” Schedler asked. “A new postal service? I just don’t think we need that.

“The Constitution says very vividly it’s up to the states the time, place and manner in which we conduct elections. It is a Constitutional issue,” he added.

Many of the lawmakers zeroed in on the potential hacking threat from Russia.

The Obama administration reportedly believes Russia was behind the DNC hack, but has yet to publicly point the finger.

Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) pressed witnesses on how many concrete examples there are of Russian-based hacking into U.S. elections system.

Schedler said he knew of none, and said he discussed the question with Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson.

However, Dan Wallach, a professor of computer science at Rice University, was reluctant to dismiss the threat.

“The nature of threat is that they don’t want to see them there, so we can’t assume that if we haven’t see them that they’re absent.”

Lawmakers also threw jabs over the hacking of DNC emails, with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) accusing Republicans of not taking the incident seriously.

“The [Republican] reaction has been disappointing,” she said.

“I’d like to think that if the Russians attacked the Republican National Committee, the Democrats would be as outraged as Republicans because it’s an attack on America,” Lofgren said.

“It’s not an attack on a party,” she continued. “The fact that there hasn’t been outrage expressed at all levels of both parties about the effort of the Russians to disrupt this election, it’s sad commentary on leaders of that party and it’s very chilling when you think about what could happen.”

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has joked about the allegations of Russian hacking, saying that he wished Moscow had hacked rival Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Republican Rep. Randy Weber (Texas), though, hit back at Lofgren’s remarks, citing the controversy over Clinton’s use of a private email server.

“I will note that there’s probably about the same amount of outrage from the Democrats over Hillary Clinton’s dumping of a bunch of emails that destroyed evidence of a federal investigation.”

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Randy Weber
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