December 21, 2017

Senators Harris, Lankford, Klobuchar, Collins, and Graham Introduce Comprehensive Election Cybersecurity Bill

Legislation Would Protect Against Foreign Interference in Future Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris, a member of both the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), along with co-sponsors Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today introduced The Secure Elections Act, a bill to modernize election cybersecurity across America and protect against foreign interference in future elections.

The Intelligence Community has confirmed that, during the 2016 election, Russia launched an unprecedented hacking campaign against the nation's election infrastructure.  The Department of Homeland security has notified over 20 states that Russia probed their election systems and, according to press reports, Russia successfully breached multiple election agencies and technology vendors.

“Russia attacked the very heart of our democracy when they interfered in the 2016 election,” said Senator Harris. “With the 2018 elections just around the corner, Russia will be back to interfere again. We must act now to fortify our election systems against attacks by foreign powers in a way that is smart, comprehensive, and allows for effective communication and information-sharing between election and intelligence officials.”

"At a time when cybersecurity threats to our nation’s election infrastructure are increasingly frequent and sophisticated, federal inaction is simply inexcusable,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “Our nation’s intelligence agencies agree that our elections will continue to be targets of cyberattacks. An effective cyber defense plan requires close collaboration among federal, state and local officials. The Secure Elections Act would provide much needed resources to better secure voting systems and establish clear protocols for information sharing with elections officials to strengthen our cybersecurity defenses and effectively combat threats to our democracy." 

The Secure Elections Act is directly responsive to the lessons of the 2016 election and testimony before the Select Committee on Intelligence. The legislation would improve cybersecurity information sharing between federal and state agencies, ensure state election officials have timely access to classified material, establish expert guidelines for securing election systems, provide $386M in grants for both long-term and immediate cybersecurity improvements, encourage effective post-election auditing, and establish a bug bounty program for election infrastructure.

Senators Harris and Lankford are the only Members of the Senate who serve on both the Homeland Security Committee and Intelligence Committee.

Details of the Secure Elections Act:

  • Reaffirms individual state leadership in administering federal elections.
  • Ensures the federal government promptly shares election cybersecurity threats and information with state, county, and municipal election agencies.
  • Provides security clearances to appropriate state officials so they can access and act quickly on classified cybersecurity information.
  • Develops, through a panel of independent experts and an open process, a set of voluntary cybersecurity guidelines for election-related systems.
  • Provides grants to states for implementation of the cybersecurity guidelines and replacing outdated electronic voting machines.

This bill follows a series of hearings Senator Harris has participated in this year as a member of both HSGAC and SSCI that focused on cybersecurity and election security. During a June SSCI hearing, Senator Harris pressed DHS and FBI representatives on why the federal government has not consistently and promptly notified a state’s top election official when an election system is breached within state.

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