WASHINGTON -- As part of their first sweeping legislation of the session, House Democrats unveiled several security measures meant to address cybersecurity flaws in the nation’s election systems.
- HR 1 includes election cybersecurity provisions
- Gives states tools and funding to enhance election infrastructure
- Cybersecurity experts say getting bill done ASAP before 2020 is important
"As our first bill, we put forward critical legislation to establish election security," said Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee.
With the 2018 midterm election in the rear view mirror, House Democrats like Soto say it’s time to learn from the past and prepare for the future.
"We saw clearly, intrusion by foreign powers like Russia in the 2016 election and we know they tried again in 2018," Soto explained.
Attempts by Russian actors to penetrate Florida’s election system during the 2016 presidential election have been widely reported and experts believe that could continue.
“Florida has got to be concerned it's one of the top targets, given that it’s been one of the three or four most critical swing states in recent memory," said Tom Gann, the vice president of government relations for McAfee, a cybersecurity company.
Gann said now is the time to act on HR 1, which includes an election security smorgasbord. Among the things tucked into the bill:
- Provisions giving states new tools and funding to enhance infrastructure
- Requirements to replace paperless voting machines
- Require states to develop better processes for auditing election results
- Also require them to develop new security requirements for vendors
“The need now is in preparation for 2020 — which is a presidential where the stakes are the greatest to get the right resources rapidly into the states," Gann said. "The focus has got to be on improving the voting machines, making sure that all voting machines have the ability to have a paper trail, and then making sure that system hacking is that much harder to do.”
While the bill has a decent chance of moving through the House where Democrats hold the majority, it may face a more difficult path to passage in the Republican-controlled Senate, which has been wary of imposing strict requirements on states.
“We have good laws in our state, but you have to follow them," Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida said. He's alluding to the recount controversy that played out in Broward County during the 2018 midterm election.
"I think the federal government can be a good partner, especially when you’re dealing with cybersecurity issues and stuff like that," he said.
When it comes to safeguarding the nation’s voting system, experts hope lawmakers will come to a compromise.
“The need is to keep this issue bipartisan for the good of the country," Gann said.
While cybersecurity matters have yet to be a major focus of the 116th Congress, experts are recommending that lawmakers implement new guidelines in enough time ahead of the 2020 presidential election.