Groups push lawmakers for hearings on voting machine security

Groups push lawmakers for hearings on voting machine security
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Voting rights and election security groups on Monday urged two House and Senate committees to hold hearings on the security of voting machines. 

The groups, which include the National Election Defense Coalition, Electronic Privacy Information Center, R Street Institute and Public Citizen, asked the House Administration Committee and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee in a letter to schedule election security hearings that include testimony from voting machine vendors and election security experts.

"The security of our nation’s elections is acutely dependent on the vendors that supply our computerized voting systems," the groups wrote. "The voting system vendors have operated with little oversight and no regulation for decades."

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"Given the gravity and urgency of this issue, we write to you to urge the committees to hold a hearing on election system security featuring sworn testimony from officers of the voting system vendors to shed more light on their practices which directly impact the security of the nation," they added.

The groups cited reports in recent months that certain voting systems rely on outdated Windows 7 operating systems, that one major election machine vendor installed remote access software on its election systems and concerns about a lack of transparency from voting machine vendors.

The House Administration Committee has already held hearings on election security issues this year and has pushed through, along party lines, the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act. 

This legislation, passed by the House in July, would authorize $600 million to assist states in enhancing their election security ahead of 2020 and includes language that would ban voting machines from being connected to the internet and being produced in foreign countries.

A spokesperson for 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.) told The Hill earlier this month that Lofgren plans to take up legislation to push back against social media disinformation campaigns this fall. 

“I firmly believe that our committee should conduct oversight over all areas of election administration and hear directly from election administrators and election vendors," said Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisNew hemp trade group presses lawmakers on immigration reform, regs Shimkus says he's reconsidering retirement Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement MORE (R-Ill.), the ranking member of the House Administration Committee, in a statement. "During consideration of H.R. 1, a 706-page bill, we only heard from one actual election administrator and two during consideration of H.R. 2722. We did not hear from a single election vendor before passing a bill that mandated paper ballots for the entire country.

"I’m also disappointed that so much of our focus on elections at the Committee has been on issues that aren’t within direct jurisdiction of the committee," he added. "I remain willing and ready to work with the majority to ensure safe elections in 2020.”

The Senate Rules Committee also held hearings on election security last year in the run-up to the midterm elections, with a representative of Hart InterCivic, one of the largest voting machine vendors in the country, among the witnesses. 

The committee has largely avoided legislation addressing election security vulnerabilities.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMichelle Obama presents Lin-Manuel Miranda with National Portrait Award GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Overnight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule MORE (R-Mo.) said earlier this year that he had no plans to bring up election security legislation due to his belief that these bills would go nowhere in the full Senate. A spokesperson for Blunt did not immediately respond to request for comment on this story. 

Senate Rules Committee ranking member Amy KlobucharAmy Jean Klobuchar2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Sanders official predicts health care, climate change will be top issues in fifth Democratic debate Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock MORE (D-Minn.), a 2020 presidential contender, has pushed for a vote in the upper chamber on election security legislation.

Klobuchar has introduced various bills to further election security, including legislation that would address foreign interference in elections and social media disinformation campaigns and provide funding for states to enhance voting infrastructure. 

Klobuchar has also made election security a part of her 2020 campaign, committing to “prioritize cybersecurity and protect our elections and other American infrastructure from cyber attack” as part of the actions she would take in her first 100 days in office. 

Other groups that signed the Monday letter include the Project on Government Oversight, League of Women Voters, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Daily Kos, FreedomWorks, Protect Democracy, Open Source Election Technology Institute, Free Speech for People and Common Cause Washington.

Updated at 7:44 p.m.