Democrats and Republicans have clashed before over H.R. 1, the House Dems’ sweeping package of democracy and governance proposals, but today the fight goes directly to the election security provisions of the bill. The House Homeland Security panel holds a hearing today on the measure with testimony from DHS’s top cyber official, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs, Election Assistance Commission Chairman Thomas Hicks and others. A CISA official told MC: “Director Krebs will confirm election security remains a priority for CISA in the run up to 2020, laying out the Agency’s plan to work with State and local election officials on broader engagement, better defining risk to election systems, and understanding the resources to manage that risk.” At least one witness — Jake Braun, a former Obama administration official who now works as executive director of the University of Chicago’s Cyber Policy Initiative and an organizer of DEF CON’s Voting Village — endorses the bill’s election security ideas in his prepared testimony. He praises the provisions mandating auditable paper trails and authorizing voting infrastructure research and development funds.
Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, in a statement to MC, said Republicans didn’t take election security seriously enough during the last Congress, and it’s not clear DHS and the EAC have enough money to meet increasing demands for their assistance. “Congress needs to understand the existing capability of each agency and how existing capabilities can be leveraged, grown, and augmented,” Thompson said. “Local election officials are on the frontlines of securing our elections, and their success depends on the support they receive from Federal and State governments.”
Meanwhile, the top Republican on the panel, Rep. Mike Rogers, plans to complain in prepared opening remarks that Democrats didn’t work with the GOP on the bill. “Election security has long been a bipartisan priority for Members of this committee,” his remarks read. “I hope when H.R. 1 does not advance in the Senate, we can revisit the issue of election security in a bipartisan manner.” Republicans take issue with election security provisions of the bill they consider too pricey, too soon, given that states are still spending a $380 million election security infusion from last year. They also contend it doesn’t give states enough flexibility. The legislation’s election security provisions will likely come up again Thursday during a House Administration Committee hearing.