A new bill from three House Democrats would codify elections as critical infrastructure. Reps. Mark Pocan (Wis.), Keith Ellison (Minn.) and Hank Johnson (Ga.) introduced the Securing America’s Future Elections (SAFE) Act, which would launch several cybersecurity programs, including codifying the decision from former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to reclassify elections as critical infrastructure. Designating a sector as critical infrastructure gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) additional leeway to provide assistance and training toward its security. The label currently applies to 16 sectors, including power, telecommunications and emergency services. “One thing Democrats and Republicans should agree on is that we should be doing everything in our power to guarantee the sovereignty of our county and the integrity of our elections. This bill will do just that,” said Pocan in a written statement.
Johnson made the move in the waning days of the Obama administration in the wake of the Russian influence and hacking campaign directed at helping President Trump get elected. Many state secretaries of state criticized the designation, saying that it was the first step toward federalizing elections.
The SAFE Act, introduced Friday, takes several other steps to ensure election security. It would reauthorize the Election Assistance Commission, which helped set up infrastructure to test voting machines for security.
The act would also require the National Institute of Standards and Technology to work with the DHS on security standards for third-party contractors, fund voting machines that leave an auditable paper trail — making it more difficult to influence election results through hacking — and require that 5 percent of those machines be checked each election to ensure accuracy.