The head of a federal commission who has helped U.S. states protect election systems from possible cyber attacks by Russia or others is being replaced at the behest of Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House. Matthew Masterson, a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission who currently serves as its chairman, has been passed over for a second four-year term as one of the agency’s four commissioners. “The appointment expired in December and we are going in a different direction for our nomination. We nominate people for a variety of positions and generally speaking choose our own folks,” AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, said by email on Thursday. Strong rejected the notion that Masterson was being removed or shoved aside, characterizing the change as routine.
A new set of voluntary guidelines for security and reliability of elections systems was approved on Sept. 12 by a key committee of the Elections Assistance Commission. The vote took place at a meeting of the EAC that was chaired by Kent Rochford, acting director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The new document represents a refresh of voting system guidelines that were developed in 2005 and last updated in 2015. The EAC vote comes as cybersecurity experts warn that election systems are vulnerable to hacking, and almost a year after the Department of Homeland Security added election systems to its list of critical U.S. infrastructure.