Peters, Lankford, Klobuchar & Johnson Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Cybersecurity for Voting Systems

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, James Lankford (R-OK), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, and Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee today introduced bipartisan legislation to add the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a member of the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) committee that develops guidelines for the cybersecurity standards of voting systems. The Voting System Cybersecurity Act of 2019 would ensure that a cybersecurity expert from DHS is involved in crafting the voluntary voting system guidelines established by the EAC that voting system manufacturers use when creating their products.

“Americans should be confident that their votes will be cast and counted correctly when they go to the polls,” said Senator Peters. “We can ensure that cybersecurity plays a more prominent role in the design of voting systems by giving cybersecurity experts a designated seat at the table. Protecting our elections is a matter of national security, and our legislation makes sure the right people are part of the process from step one.”

“Congress should continue to take steps to ensure our elections are secure,” said Senator Lankford. “Every state is responsible for their elections, but the federal government should provide insight to help states protect against foreign cyber actors. This bill is a straightforward fix to require the Department of Homeland Security to provide cybersecurity expertise in the Election Assistance Commission. We must continue to think about present elections and elections 20 years from now.”

“Election security is national security,” said Senator Klobuchar. “It’s critical that we recognize the role that the Department of Homeland Security plays in protecting our election systems by creating a permanent role for them on the Election Assistance Commission’s committee to help develop cybersecurity guidelines for voting systems. As our intelligence officials continue to warn that our election infrastructure is under attack, we need our nation’s best minds to be working together to protect our upcoming elections,”

“It’s important for the experts who secure our nation’s election infrastructure to have a seat at the table,” said Senator Johnson. “I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this commonsense legislation to help strengthen our election security measures.”

In response to poorly designed and confusing ballots in the 2000 United States presidential election, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002, creating the Election Assistance Commission. Among other responsibilities, the EAC is tasked with adopting the voluntary voting system guidelines, a set of criteria that are developed by the EAC’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC). The 2017 designation of election infrastructure as critical infrastructure made DHS a key player in helping states and localities shore up the cybersecurity of their election-related systems.

This legislation leverages DHS’s cybersecurity expertise by formalizing its participation in the committee that crafts the guidelines used to inform and evaluate how voting systems should perform in elections and under certain conditions. The Voting System Cybersecurity Act of 2019 requires a DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) representative with operational expertise in cybersecurity be included as a member of the TGDC.

Peters has long supported efforts to secure federal elections and prevent interference from foreign adversaries and other bad actors. Earlier this year, Peters launched an inquiry into reports that the Trump Administration gut its election security task forces. In March, Peters pressed the country’s three largest election system vendors on their efforts to strengthen the security of voting machines ahead of the 2020 elections. He has also supported legislation requiring the use of paper ballots and “risk-limiting” audits for all federal elections to help ensure results are secure.