House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking

House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking
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Republicans on the House Administration Committee on Wednesday introduced legislation that would seek to update a long-standing federal election law and secure voter registration databases from foreign hacking attempts.

The Protect American Voters Act (PAVA) would require the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to establish the Emerging Election Technology Committee (EETC), which would help create voluntary guidelines for election equipment, such as voter registration databases, not covered under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

HAVA was signed into law in 2002 following problems with voting during the 2000 presidential election. The law established the EAC and set minimum election administration standards. 

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The EETC would be empowered to bypass the existing Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines process, which is a voluntary set of voting requirements that voting systems can be tested against to ensure their security and accessibility.

The new bill would also establish an Election Cyber Assistance Unit within the EAC, which would help connect state and local election officials across the country with cybersecurity experts who could provide technical support.  

Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump visits a ventilator plant in a battleground state The Hill to interview Mnuchin today and many other speakers The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve MORE (Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, sponsored the legislation alongside other committee Republicans, Reps. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerDemocrats press OSHA official on issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America NCAA backs plan to allow college athletes to cash in on name, image and likeness MORE (N.C.) and Barry Loudermilk (Ga.). 

Other co-sponsors were: Reps. Denver RigglemanDenver RigglemanHouse GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 House defeats effort to prevent stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants McCarthy unveils new GOP-led China task force MORE (R-Va.), Jim HagedornJames Lee HagedornTime to look at both sides of the medical ledger Minnesota congressman diagnosed with cancer House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking MORE (R-Minn.), Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotHouse passes bill to grant flexibility for small business aid program Ohio Democrat Kate Schroder wins primary to challenge Steve Chabot Democratic rep pushes for eligibility for coronavirus lending programs to be extended to chambers of commerce MORE (R-Ohio), Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungHillicon Valley: Apple, Google launch virus tracing system | Republican says panel should no longer use Zoom | Lawmakers introduce bill to expand telehealth House lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to expand telehealth services Campaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis MORE (R-Alaska), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoStates plead for cybersecurity funds as hacking threat surges GOP Rep. Pete King to buck party, vote for Democrats' coronavirus relief bill Lawmakers offer bill to expand employee retention tax credit MORE (R-N.Y.), and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikBipartisan House bill seeks to improve pandemic preparedness The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve House GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 MORE (R-N.Y.)

Davis said in a statement on Wednesday that they were introducing the new bill to cover “non-voting technology” such as voter registration databases and electronic pollbooks that aren’t covered by existing laws.

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"When Russia attacked our election equipment in the 2016 presidential election, they didn't hack our vote-tallying machines,” Davis said. “Instead, they were able to infiltrate the non-voting systems in our election infrastructure. States didn't have much guidance on how best to protect those elements of the election ecosystem, like centralized online voter registration databases.”

He added that "registered American voters should not have to worry that their personal information will be hacked by a foreign agent. PAVA is a common-sense proposal to stop what we saw in 2016, and I hope my Democratic colleagues will join us in this endeavor to protect our election systems and the technology that may be developed for future elections in our nation." 

According to the report compiled by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE, Russian hackers targeted election networks across the country, and successfully hacked into the system in Illinois and were able to exfiltrate “data related to thousands of U.S. voters before the malicious activity was identified.”

Loudermilk said in a separate statement that “Russia’s attempts to interfere in previous elections is a prime example of why we need to ensure our voting infrastructure is secure and free from foreign influence.”

Davis led another group of House Republicans in October to introduce a separate election security-focused bill, the Honest Elections Act, which would make political advertisements more transparent 

An official for House Administration Committee Chairwoman Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (D-Calif.) told The Hill that while they were aware of the bill being introduced, they did not know any of the details prior to its introduction on Wednesday night. 

The House Administration Committee has focused heavily on election security and voting reform issues over the past year, with the committee advancing, along party lines, the three major election security and reform bills passed by the House in 2019. These three bills have stalled in the Senate amid Republican objections.