The federal government wants to help states keep hackers from manipulating the November election, amid growing fears that the U.S. political system is vulnerable. But Georgia’s top election official is balking at the offers of assistance — and accusing the Obama administration of using exaggerated warnings of cyberthreats to intrude on states’ authority. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s objections add to a bumpy start for the Department of Homeland Security’s attempt to shore up safeguards for the election, during a summer when cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee have called attention to weaknesses across the electoral system. Cybersecurity experts call tougher protections long overdue for parties, political advocacy groups and voting machinery, but DHS’ efforts risk becoming caught in the same partisan arguments about state sovereignty that have hung up programs such as President Barack Obama’s Medicaid expansion. “It seems like now it’s just the D.C. media and the bureaucrats, because of the DNC getting hacked — they now think our whole system is on the verge of disaster because some Russian’s going to tap into the voting system,” Kemp, a Republican, told POLITICO in an interview. “And that’s just not — I mean, anything is possible, but it is not probable at all, the way our systems are set up.”
… Joe Kiniry, an election digital-security expert and the CEO and chief scientist at Free & Fair, said it’s “par for the course” for states to assert that their systems are secure. “These are exactly the same kinds of statements made by every large organization about their security until they are the next Sony, Target, or, hell, NSA,” he said.
Bruce McConnell, a former DHS deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity under Obama, rejected Kemp’s suggestion that states should fear greater federal involvement in elections.
“I think it’s pretty clear today which is the greater risk to the republic: citizens losing complete confidence in our election system, or the states working carefully with Washington to prevent disaster while keeping the 10th Amendment well in mind,” said McConnell, now the global vice president at the EastWest Institute. He was referring to the Bill of Rights provision that declares limits on federal authority.
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