A bipartisan group of senators leading an inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election called on Tuesday for urgent action by Congress to help states protect their voting systems from future threats of foreign interference. With the 2018 congressional primaries already under way, members of the senate intelligence committee outlined a series of recommendations – the first public release from the panel’s yearlong investigation – that they say will help improve the cybersecurity of the nation’s election infrastructure. “We’re now at a point where we’ve wrapped up one piece of our investigation, which deals with election security,” said Republican senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, who spoke alongside the Democratic vice-chair, Senator Mark Warner, and members of the committee. By and large, he said, “we need to be more effective at deterring our adversaries.”
“The Russians were relentless in attempting to meddle in the 2016 elections and they will continue their efforts to undermine public confidence in western democracies and in the legitimacy of our elections,” Senator Susan Collins, another Republican member of the committee, added during the press conference.
The election security recommendations were released a day ahead of full committee hearing to discuss the attempted hacks of several state voting systems in 2016 and federal and local response. Jeh Johnson, the former homeland security secretary and Kirstjen Nielsen, the current homeland security secretary, are scheduled to testify.
The suggestions include more federal funding for states to replace outdated voting systems and improved information sharing between local and state agencies. At a minimum, the committee said, machines should have “a voter-verified paper trail and no wifi capability” that would make them more vulnerable to being hacked. There are currently 14 states that lack a paper trail of votes cast.