This past weekend, hackers gathered in Las Vegas with a simple mission: break into America’s electronic voting machines and take control. Within minutes, some had already succeeded – but that’s a good thing. These hackers were part of a workshop held to identify vulnerabilities so they can be fixed well before any Americans cast actual votes next election. This exercise underscores the very real danger posed by outdated and insecure voting-machine software – as well as the important mission our government must continue undertaking to close these vulnerabilities and safeguard our elections. However, in their FY2018 funding proposal, Republicans are going after the small but highly successful agency that protects the integrity of our voting systems: the Election Assistance Commission. In June, House Republicans included a provision in their Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that would abolish the Election Assistance Commission.
Many Americans may not have heard of the Election Assistance Commission, a four-member bipartisan agency that Congress established in 2002 as part of the Help America Vote Act, but nonetheless they benefit greatly from its work. Created to address the flaws in our nation’s voting infrastructure, which contributed to the dispute surrounding the 2000 presidential election, the Election Assistance Commission protects Americans’ votes by helping to ensure that state and local authorities adopt best practices and uphold the highest standards of security for voting technology.
I was proud to be the lead Democratic sponsor of the bipartisan Help America Vote Act legislation that established the Election Assistance Commission and charged it with helping state and local election officials ensure free, fair, and safe elections. Today, in a measure of the Election Assistance Commission’s success, forty-seven of the fifty states rely on its voting machine certification process and for monitoring of reported issues. The Election Assistance Commission is critical in facilitating the sharing of information among states with regard to best practices and rapidly identifying and addressing flaws.
Never has the Election Assistance Commission’s work been more important than it is today, with Russia seeking to undermine our voting systems and those of other democracies. The kind of interference seen in our most recent election may not have altered the outcome, but it raised serious questions about vulnerabilities, especially when it comes to cybersecurity. The Election Assistance Commission provides one of our strongest built-in protections against cyberattacks on our voting infrastructure. During the 2016 election, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security worked closely with one another and with the Election Assistance Commission to identify cyber threats and provide states with the information needed to counter them. Now, the Election Assistance Commission is working to draw lessons from that election and use them to strengthen the security of states’ voting systems before Americans head to the polls again in 2018.