Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted disapproves of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s decision to designate voting machines and other aspects of the election process as in need of urgent cybersecurity assistance. “This was an altogether unnecessary move,” Husted said in an emailed statement. The Republican said the move constitutes “an unprecedented federal overstep” in the state’s right to administer elections. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Friday that election software and hardware would be designated as “critical infrastructure,” which gives state elections officials the opportunity to request cybersecurity services including assistance in response to cyberattacks. Designated election infrastructure includes storage facilities, polling places, voter registration databases, voting machines, and any systems used to manage, report and display election processes and results. Husted, who publicly opposed the move when it was broached in September, said, “I will continue to work with the new administration and leaders in Congress to ensure this does not represent an intrusion by the federal government into state election systems — systems that have served us well for over 200 years.”
Christy McCormick, a member of the federal Election Assistance Commission, questioned in a statement sent Saturday the endgame of the new designation, especially when the benefits of the designation have already been provided to elections officials for the past four months. “Will DHS or other federal agencies require states to conform to a new security standard?” McCormick wrote. “If DHS were truly only concerned with the security of these elections, they would simply provide these resources without the declaration or requiring states to ‘volunteer’ before any information or resources will be shared.”
Johnson recognized in his statement that many local and state elections officials oppose the designation. He said it will not impede the state’s role in administering elections. Rather, Johnson said, the move means election infrastructure becomes a priority within the National Infrastructure Protection Plan.
But Husted said, “This designation is not something the department needed to rush through in the final days of the current administration, especially seeing the next federal election is nearly two years away.”