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House Democrats' Task Force Calls for Baseline Cyber Requirements for Election Systems

November 16, 2017

ELECTION SECURITY BILL COMING NEXT MONTH — House Democrats’ election security task force will likely offer legislation based off its findings early next month, according to one of the panel’s co-chairs. “I think by the first week of December we’ll have a document that we can push out,” Rep. Bennie Thompson told POLITICO late Tuesday. The measure “will probably lend itself to Congress getting involved in helping states finance systems of conducting elections, but I think those states will have to opt in, rather than opt out,” he added, suggesting some kind of federal grant program. “We’ll have best practices that will probably have to be accepted by the states to participate,” said Thompson, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. The legislation could also include “what alternatives can be put in place” in anticipation of hacking from a foreign power like the alleged Russia digital meddling that rocked the 2016 U.S. presidential election, such as provisional ballots or onsite registration, the Mississippi Democrat said.

 

Thompson’s remarks came the same day the task force received a classified briefing from the Homeland Security Department. The meeting was the first with current officials from DHS. Among the briefers were Bob Kolasky, acting deputy undersecretary for the department’s main cyber wing, the National Protection and Programs Directorate. He’s been one of the main officials at DHS leading election security efforts. Also briefing the task force was Chris Wright, acting director of cyber intelligence at DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

 

“They brought us up on what their findings have been, the work that they have put with the 21 states that have been identified as having been hacked in some form, and some of the best practices they have been working with states on,” Thompson told POLITICO. “Our bigger challenge is what can we do from a public policy or legislative standpoint to improve upon the election security in this country. And we’re not there yet.”

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