New York lawmakers move to combat security, disinformation threats to mail-in voting

New York lawmakers move to combat security, disinformation threats to mail-in voting

Two House lawmakers on Friday zeroed in on new election security threats posed by an increase in mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Reps. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoLawmakers increasingly anxious about US efforts against Russian hackers GOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting House votes to censure Gosar and boot him from committees MORE (R-N.Y.) and Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceFive takeaways: House passes Biden's sweeping benefits bill Dems brace for score on massive Biden bill Democrats bullish they'll reach finish line this week MORE (D-N.Y.) wrote letters to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and to the New York State Board of Elections following the signing of an executive order by New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoWill media portrayals of Rittenhouse lead to another day in court? NY Assembly report corroborates Cuomo harassment claims The real 'threat to democracy'? Pols who polarize us with their opinions MORE (D) ordering state officials to send absentee ballot request forms to every voter in the state. 

Katko and Rice raised questions around new election security concerns that moving to vote-by-mail exposed, and urged the agencies to clarify steps being taken to preserve the public’s confidence in elections.


Katko, who is the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity panel, said in a statement he was particularly interested in steps taken to combat disinformation and other election interference efforts. 

“The NYS Board of Elections and U.S. Election Assistance Commission must detail for the public the steps they are taking to protect against interference and disinformation campaigns, as well as how they will identify and address potential threats to the upcoming elections,” Katko said. 

Rice, a member of the cybersecurity subcommittee, said in a separate statement that her goal was to ensure the upcoming primary and general elections were “conducted safely and securely” despite the chaos caused by the ongoing pandemic. 

“Voting by mail, a clear necessity during this pandemic, can pose unique challenges, and that’s why Rep. Katko and I are calling on the NYS Board of Elections and U.S. Election Assistance Commission to immediately identify and take steps to defend against potential threats,” Rice said. “Even in times of hardship, American democracy must remain intact and voters should have full confidence in the integrity of our elections.”

Both Katko and Rice assured the EAC that they would work to provide it with any further resources needed, and asked that the New York State Board of Elections detail how it would ensure accurate information was distributed around the new voting system. 

The EAC has launched a page detailing information for election officials in regards to steps to take to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, including recommendations from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) that all organizations prioritize IT security. 

The $2 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President TrumpDonald TrumpFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Giving thanks for Thanksgiving itself Immigration provision in Democrats' reconciliation bill makes no sense MORE last month also included funding for the EAC to give to states to address the impact of COVID-19 on elections. 

The EAC said earlier this month it was expediting sending those funds to states, and Democrats and other voting rights officials are pushing hard for Congress to appropriate more funds in future stimulus bills. 

Many states have begun to move toward mail-in voting as primary elections have been delayed or disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns were amplified after more than a dozen voters in Wisconsin contracted the virus after taking part in the state's primary.

Election security has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill since the 2016 elections. Lawmakers have split over what needs to be done to prevent the kind of foreign interference since that year.