After a yearlong effort, Senators secured $380 million in the omnibus to help states purchase new voting machines, improve election auditing, provide cybersecurity training, and implement cybersecurity best practices to prevent future attacks on our election systems
Russian actors attempted to hack a U.S. voting software company and at least 21 states’ election systems in 2016 and current U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed that foreign adversaries are currently working to disrupt U.S. elections
WASHINGTON – Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, and Senator James Lankford (R-OK), today announced that they successfully secured $380 million in funding to improve states’ election infrastructure and help protect states from future attacks by foreign adversaries. During the 2016 election, intelligence reports established that Russia hacked presidential campaign accounts, launched cyberattacks against at least 21 state election systems, and attacked a US voting systems software company.
“Election security is national security and our intelligence officials have made clear that our election systems continue to be a target for foreign adversaries,” Senator Klobuchar said. “We must do everything in our power to protect our democracy from future attacks. That means making sure those on the front lines of administering elections have the resources and information they need to safeguard our election systems. This immediate funding will help states to replaces outdated technology and improve cyber-defenses ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections.”
“I applaud Senate leadership for including election security funding in this Omnibus appropriations bill,” Senator Lankford said. “Although I object to this year’s broken budget process, the funding in this Omnibus appropriations bill will help states modernize their voting systems and ensure that auditable ballots can provide safeguards against manipulation and malicious cyberattacks. A fair and safe election is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. While funding in the omnibus today is an essential first step, it’s just that – a first step. Congress must take up the full Secure Elections Act without delay so we can fully protect the security and integrity of our elections.”
The FY18 omnibus includes $380 million in funding for election security grants to help states to update their election systems. This funding will be made available immediately to states so that they can begin to implement security improvements ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections. The funding also ensures that each state will receive a minimum of $3 million dollars to improve election security with additional funds provided based on the population of each state. Funds will be available immediately and states must provide a 5 percent match within two years of receiving the funds. This funding will be used to:
- Replace outdated voting machines that do not provide a voter verified paper record;
- Implement a post-election audit system that provides a high-level of confidence in the accuracy of final vote tallies;
- Upgrade election computer systems to address cyber vulnerabilities
- Facilitate cyber security training for the state chief election official's office and local election officials;
- Implement established cybersecurity best practices for election systems; and fund other activities that will improve the security of elections for federal office.
“Securing Minnesota’s elections systems has never been more important,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. “We know that we were targeted in 2016, along with 20 other states, by a foreign government. We rebuffed that attack and are preparing for more attempts in 2018, and from more sources. I am grateful to Senator Klobuchar for defending the sanctity of our elections and fighting for all Minnesotans and our best-in-the-nation election system.”
In December, Klobuchar and Lankford introduced the Secure Elections Act with Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to strengthen election cybersecurity in America and protect against foreign interference in future elections. The Secure Elections Act streamlines cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence entities and state election agencies; provides security clearances to state election officials; and provides resources for states to upgrade election security. This bipartisan solution would bolster our election systems against future threats while protecting states’ primacy in running elections.
In August 2017, Senators Klobuchar and Graham introduced amendment 656 to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would help combat foreign interference in our democracy by providing state and local governments with the information and resources they need to secure our election infrastructure from cyberattacks.
In October, Klobuchar introduced the Honest Ads Act with U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and placing political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology. The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.
Klobuchar and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) have also introduced the bipartisan Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act to strengthen disclosure by requiring federal campaigns to use existing credit card verification protocols to help verify that online credit card donations come from U.S. sources. In June, Klobuchar introduced the Helping State and Local Governments Prevent Cyber Attacks Act to help combat foreign interference by providing state and local governments with the information and resources they need to keep our elections secure and improve voter confidence.
In addition, Klobuchar has led Senate Rules Committee Democrats in a call for hearings and briefings on foreign attempts to hack into U.S. election systems and improving cybersecurity. Klobuchar also led a group of 26 senators in calling for a full account of the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) efforts to address Russian cybersecurity threats. In January 2017, Klobuchar introduced legislation with four other senators to create an independent, nonpartisan commission to comprehensively investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.