Momentum may finally be building in Congress to take new action to secure the elections from cyberthreats as the midterms approach. Lawmakers have struggled to advance election security legislation in the months since they approved a $380 million funding package for states to upgrade their election systems. But a flurry of election-related hearings on Capitol Hill in recent weeks — including a pair of hearings Wednesday that featured testimony from some of the government’s top cybersecurity and election officials — shows they’re sharpening their focus on the issue. And the latest attention could help move bipartisan legislation to combat election cyberthreats closer to the goal line as November nears and intelligence officials warn of ongoing attempts by the Russian government to disrupt the U.S. political system. “The tone has changed so it’s much more forward-looking in terms of, ‘Let’s figure out what we can get done,’ ” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), co-sponsor of Secure Elections Act, which would streamline the way state and federal officials exchange threat information and has garnered broad support in the Senate. “Congress, I think, has realized our role has to focus on what’s in front of us, and that’s protecting the 2018 and 2020 elections from foreign interference.”
Klobuchar’s bill, introduced with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), was a focal point in a Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing Wednesday, the second election security hearing that Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has called since June. Officials from DHS and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission testified about their efforts to share cyberthreat information and offer guidance on auditing vote tallies — things that the Secure Elections Act seeks to codify into law.
Lankford urged his colleagues to move on the bill in remarks before the committee. He said he and Klobuchar had worked hard to refine the legislation since they introduced it last year, soliciting feedback from state election administrators as well as officials from the EAC and DHS.
“It is exceptionally important that we actually get a bill across the floor, get it passed and be able to help secure our elections for the future,” he said.