Top election officials from around the country met this weekend to create the formal organization to hash out what powers and lines of communications the Department of Homeland Security should have after the department designated voting systems in the states and territories as “critical infrastructure” earlier this year. By voting to adopt a charter for a “Government Coordinating Council,” the secretaries of state now have a group that has an official channel and a single “voice” to communicate with DHS. The move marks the first major step in the coming together between the nonpartisan National Association of Secretaries of State, or NASS, and DHS, amidst a contentious and sometimes mistrusting year.
“The other importance of the coordinating council actually being formed, is that there is so much activity on the federal level regarding legislation, I think this will give us, hopefully, a venue to help us inform members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that states are taking an active role and we are doing a lot to prepare ourselves for the 2018 elections and beyond,” said NASS President and Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson.
Lawson and six other secretaries of state were in Atlanta this weekend for the first real efforts at coordinating between the states and DHS.
Although DHS has insisted from the start their “critical infrastructure” designation doesn’t give them any actual powers or authority over state and local voting systems, local officials have been wary. They say they can’t be sure DHS wasn’t encroaching on authority reserved explicitly to the states until DHS had clearly delineated their mission and what they hoped to accomplish with the critical infrastructure tag.