On Dec. 21, all eyes were on the Republican bill to cut taxes. Yet a bipartisan group of six senators also had their eyes on the far less sexy (but still important!) topic of election hacking. They quietly introduced a bill called the Secure Elections Act that, if passed, would be a good down payment on improving the confidence we can have in the integrity of our elections. This short, stocking-stuffer size review will: review some of the core questions around election security, assess the bill’s provisions to improve information sharing, its grant program, and its bug bounty, and conclude with some tough realism about additional work that needs to be undertaken to protect our elections.
… Overall, this new Election Security Act succeeds in addressing all of these recommendations except the first. There’s a good reason for this exception, however: the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) previously designated election systems as critical infrastructure in January 2017. It is worth reflecting on this recommendation because it reflects a controversial tension of federalism between the role of states and municipalities that administer elections and the role of the federal government, which is responsible for protecting the country from critical threats. For example, the Elections Clause of the Constitution assigns to the states the responsibility for determining the “times, places, and manner” for elections, but also empowers Congress to modify these determinations. It should not be surprising that state officials may balk if they perceive that their federal counterparts are meddling in state affairs. Indeed, the National Association of Secretaries of State passed a resolution in February 2017 opposing DHS’s designation of election systems as critical infrastructure. One lesson, therefore, is that any federal legislation that tries to improve election-related cybersecurity must thread the federalism needle.
Overall, this new Election Security Act succeeds in doing so: It does not command states to act in specific ways, it does not hijack election administration from counties, states, or municipalities, and it limits the federal government’s role to advising and empowering state and local jurisdictions to run their proverbial railroads.
Before breaking down the bill, it’s worth reinforcing its bipartisan support. Election security is a topic and a threat that is too important to fall victim to partisan infighting, so it is refreshing to see Republican Sens. James Lankford, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins working with Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Martin Heinrich to address an issue of our common security. It’s nice to close out 2017 with an example of leaders in both parties working together.
Full Article: Assessing the Bipartisan Secure Elections Act – Lawfare.