In a press conference today, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence presented its urgent recommendations for protecting election systems as the U.S. moves toward midterm elections later this year. “Currently we have an election upon us, and the past tells us that the future will probably hold another set of threats if we are not prepared,” Senator Kamala Harris said. The bipartisan committee offered a set of measures to defend domestic election infrastructure against hostile foreign nations. Before launching into the findings from its committee-wide examination of current practices, written up in an accompanying report, the group emphasized that states are “firmly in the lead” in conducting elections, although the federal government should work closely to provide funds and information.
Although there are many factors that can mitigate the risk to U.S. elections, election equipment itself, particularly internet-connected systems, remains a core concern in the report:
States should rapidly replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems. At a minimum, any machine purchased going forward should have a voter-verified paper trail and no WiFi capability. If use of paper ballots becomes more widespread, election officials should re-examine current practices for securing the chain of custody of all paper ballots and verify no opportunities exist for the introduction of fraudulent votes.
Because financial need varies from state to state, the committee recommended legislation that would create a grant program through which states could apply for election security funds, including the funding needed to conduct system audits.