Key House Republican demands answers on federal election security efforts

Key House Republican demands answers on federal election security efforts
© Greg Nash

Illinois Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisShimkus says he's reconsidering retirement Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement Hillicon Valley: Senators seek national security review of TikTok | TikTok denies claims of Chinese government influence | CNN chief rips Facebook policy on political ads | Dem questions DHS' handling of personal data MORE, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, demanded answers from the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on Monday regarding election security oversight issues. 

In a letter to the EAC, Davis posed a series of questions, citing the committee “Majority’s inadequate oversight of your Commission” during an EAC oversight hearing on May and the recent testimony by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE as key factors in sending the letter. 

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"I remain committed to ensuring that local election officials have every resource they need to provide for a secure election in 2020,” Davis wrote. “Effective and focused oversight over the EAC is critically important in this mission."

Questions included what steps the EAC is taking to ensure there is a plan in place to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security in the event of a threat to election infrastructure in 2020, how the EAC is communicating its activities to the public, and details around the new Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines 2.0, which are a national voluntary set of standards for voting systems.  

Davis gave the EAC until Sept. 2 to respond. 

A spokesperson for the EAC told The Hill the commission has "received the letter and will respond to Congress within the agreed upon deadline.” 

Davis's letter was sent after House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenHillicon Valley: TikTok faces lawmaker anger over China ties | FCC formally approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Silicon Valley lawmakers introduce tough privacy bill | AT&T in M settlement with FTC Silicon Valley lawmakers introduce tough privacy bill to regulate top social media platforms Bipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill MORE (D-Calif.) also sent letters to the EAC in both April and July with similar questions around election security efforts.

In the letter sent to the EAC in April, Lofgren asked questions around how the EAC was assisting states in spending $380 million appropriated to them by Congress in 2018, and around how the EAC was filling any open staff position and how it was securing its own systems against cyber intrusions, among other questions. 

In the letter sent last month, Lofgren asked the EAC to clarify its responses to her first letter, giving the agency until Aug. 12 to do so. 

Davis has been active on the topic of election security and in June spearheaded the introduction of the Election Security Assistance Act. This bill would increase cybersecurity resources for state and local election officials, and give states financial grants that they would match by 25 percent in order to update aging election equipment. 

The House Administration Committee itself been among the most active House panels in addressing election security issues. In June, the committee approved along party lines the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act, a bill that has since been passed by the House and which would provide funding to states to improve election security. 

Davis strongly objected to the bill at the time on the grounds that the SAFE Act, sponsored primarily by Lofgren, did not address securing voter data in voter registration systems, it did not address social media disinformation campaigns, and it required states to restructure their election systems. 

A spokesperson for Lofgren told The Hill that she plans to take up legislation to address the issue of social media disinformation campaigns once Congress returns from its August recess. 

Prior to the SAFE act, the committee marked up H.R. 1, the For the People Act, in February, with the bill also advancing out of committee along a party-line vote. The SAFE Act and H.R. 1 are now both stalled in the Senate due to Republican objections.

-Updated at 9:20 p.m.