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 KatkoRundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Republicans who could serve in a Biden government Fitzpatrick wins reelection in Pennsylvania MORE (R-N.Y.) and Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceHillicon Valley: Simulated cyberattack success | New bill for election security funding | Amazon could be liable for defective products Lawmakers introduce bill to help election officials address cyber vulnerabilities House lawmakers to launch probe into DHS excluding NY from Trusted Traveler Program 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 CuomoNew York City to add COVID-19 checkpoints at bridges, crossings Don't let 'experts' ruin your Thanksgiving Cuomo reverses on in-person Thanksgiving plans with family 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 John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race 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.