A task force of congressional Democrats is slated to meet with an Obama-era Homeland Security secretary this week as part of an ongoing effort to address cyber threats to election infrastructure. The election security task force announced that it will host a public forum on Thursday featuring Jeh Johnson, who led the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Obama administration. News of the forum comes days after the DHS notified nearly two dozen states that they were targeted by Russian hackers ahead of the 2016 presidential election. It was Johnson who was responsible for engaging with state-level officials on cybersecurity ahead of the election last year. The department offered voluntary cybersecurity assistance to states to shore up their systems ahead of the vote.
Some state election officials have been critical of Johnson’s engagement, saying that states were not given enough information on the threat from Russia ahead of the presidential vote.
It was also Johnson who, in the waning days of the Obama administration, moved to designate election infrastructure as “critical infrastructure,” opening voting systems and polling places up to federal protections in the event that states request it. State and local officials have been skeptical of the designation, fearing it could amount to a federal takeover of elections.
Johnson will appear Thursday alongside Suzanne Spaulding, a former high-level cybersecurity official at the DHS, at the public forum hosted by the Congressional Task Force on Election Security.