A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Tuesday that would require a cybersecurity expert from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) be included on the committee tasked with developing voluntary voting system guidelines as part of the effort to make U.S. elections secure.
The Voting System Cybersecurity Act's main sponsors are Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), with the bill also co-sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
The legislation would specifically require that an official from DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency be included on the Election Assistance Commission's (EAC) Technical Guidelines Committee, a group that is made of up both government and industry officials.
Walter Copan, the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, chairs of the committee, which is tasked with developing voluntary voting system guidelines (VVSG) to secure voting equipment. The EAC is working to finalize the latest edition of its VVSG and is planning to hold the final public hearing on the development of the VVSG. 2.0 on May 20.
The introduction of this legislation comes days after multiple House Democrats reintroduced an election security bill, which is meant to prevent cyber attacks and other types of foreign interference from impacting U.S. elections.
“Americans should be confident that their votes will be cast and counted correctly when they go to the polls,” Peters said in a statement. “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.”
Lankford commented that “Congress should continue to take steps to ensure our elections are secure. Every state is responsible for their elections, but the federal government should provide insight to help states protect against foreign cyber actors…we must continue to think about present elections and elections 20 years from now.”
Klobuchar, who has made election security a major priority this Congress through the recent reintroduction of the Honest Ads Act and her work to reintroduce the Secure Elections Act, emphasized in a statement that “election security is national security.”
“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,” Klobuchar said. “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.”
Klobuchar is the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, which will conduct an oversight hearing of the EAC this week, at which all four EAC commissioners are scheduled to testify.
Johnson commented that "It’s important for the experts who secure our nation’s election infrastructure to have a seat at the table. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this commonsense legislation to help strengthen our election security measures."