Senators Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have proposed an amendment (SA656) to the defense authorization bill that would provide states with federal dollars to upgrade their election cybersecurity. The bill, which borrows in large part from Klobuchar’s HACK Act introduced earlier this year, would require the federal government to establish best practices for cybersecurity and set up “election technology improvement grants” to help states fund improvements to meet those best practices based on a state plan laying out those proposed improvements. … You’d think that an amendment like SA656 – which both addresses the issue of cybersecurity AND makes (scarce) money available to states – would be an easy win, but there is apparently resistance because of concerns of federal intrusion into state and local control over election administration.
That’s unfortunate, given that the approach (best practices plus funding) is so modest, given current political realities – so modest, in fact, that security consultant Paul Rosenzweig writes in the LawFare Blog that “it is depressing, indeed, to see that so little is possible.”
You can actually make the case that the federal government is the best place for this kind of effort, given that the U.S. Constitution established a national government in part to “provide for the common defense”. As one person close to the issue told me, “you wouldn’t ask county election officials to go it alone against a foreign adversary on the battlefield – why would you force them to go it alone in cyberspace?”