Congress could authorize top-secret security clearances for each state’s chief election official to help protect voting systems from cyberattacks and other potential meddling. That provision, which was part of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2018 policy bill for U.S. spy agencies, is one of the first concrete steps that lawmakers have taken to try to defend future elections from the sort of foreign interference that plagued the 2016 presidential race. The Senate panel is one of two congressional committees investigating what the American intelligence community says was a Russian government campaign to undermine the U.S. democratic system, discredit Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump win. The Senate Intelligence panel included language that would require Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to set up the clearances for state leaders in its annual bill setting policy for the intelligence community.
The National Association of Secretaries of State welcomed the idea. “We’ve been seeking that kind of clearance for months, and if this goes through it’s welcome news,” said association spokesman Stephen Reed.
… The proposal aims to allow federal authorities to share more information and provide it quicker with state officials about threats to their election systems. Today, the federal government is constrained in what it can tell state leaders because in most cases they are not cleared.
In the heated run-up to last year’s Election Day, state officials complained about the information — or lack of it — that the federal government shared regarding specific threats to election systems. At least one state elections vendor was the target of a Russian cyberattack, as detailed in a leaked report from the National Security Agency.