Election vendors need federal oversight to keep “vulnerable” voting locations safe from “attacks,” the Brennan Center for Justice said Tuesday in a new report.
The report calls on Congress to institute a new federal certification program for vendors, arguing that without federal review American elections are exposed to further interference.
“The federal government regulates colored pencils, which are subject to mandatory standards promulgated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more stringently than it does America’s election infrastructure,” report authors Lawrence Norden, Gowri Ramachandran and Christopher Deluzio write.
The Brennan Center, a nonpartisan law and public policy institute based out of New York University Law School, proposes a framework for congressional oversight that the authors said would help limit interference like what was reported to have happened in 2016.
The report proposes Congress reconstitute the Election Assistance Commission, or whichever agency takes on the role, to include members with more cybersecurity expertise.
It also proposes expanding the existing voluntary certification and registration process to provide vendors a “sufficient incentive to comply with best practices.” And the Brennan Center recommends the agency continually monitor vendors' quality and management practices.
Norden, one of the three authors of the report and the director of the Brennan Center’s Election Reform Program, told The Hill that he had not reached out to the election equipment manufacturers about the recommendations, but that he believed that more oversight would actually be beneficial for these companies.
“They should welcome this as an opportunity to show what good work they are doing and make it clear to election officials who they can trust,” Norden said.
Norden said one of the key reasons for the report being compiled was to put the spotlight on how election machine vendors can improve security.
“Most of the focus has been on election officials and what election officials can do to improve our election security, and I felt like election system vendors ... play a critical part in election security, and that role and what to do about it has largely been missing from the conversation,” Norden said.
The need for more election security funds for states to update cybersecurity practices and replace outdated voting machines is a key issue that many election officials unite behind. Congress appropriated $380 million for this last year, and both the House and Senate have proposed various levels of funding for the next fiscal year.
Norden said that the $380 million "was not enough" to meet the election security needs of states, and advocated for Congress to approve more funds as soon as possible.
"I do think that the potential vulnerabilities that exist in the election system vendors have not really been dealt with, and that is just another reason to ensure that there is resiliency in our elections in 2020," Norden said.
— Updated at 10 a.m.