The Obama administration is weighing new steps to bolster the security of the United States’ voting process against cyberthreats, including whether to designate the electronic ballot-casting system for November’s elections as “critical infrastructure,” Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, said on Wednesday. In the wake of hacks that infiltrated Democratic campaign computer systems, Mr. Johnson said he was conducting high-level discussions about “election cybersecurity,” a vastly complex effort given that there are 9,000 jurisdictions in the United States that have a hand in carrying out the balloting, many of them with different ways of collecting, tallying and reporting votes. “We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process is critical infrastructure, like the financial sector, like the power grid,” Mr. Johnson told reporters at a breakfast in Washington. “There’s a vital national interest in our electoral process.” A national commission created as part of a voting overhaul enacted in 2002 in response to the controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election “raised the bar” on security, Mr. Johnson said. “But there is more to do,” he added. “The nature of cyberthreats has evolved.” Mr. Johnson said that he was considering communicating with state and local election officials across the country in the coming weeks to inform them about “best practices” to guard against cyberintrusions, and that longer-term investments would probably have to be made to secure the voting process.
“There are various different points in the process that we have to be concerned about, so this is something that we are very focused on right at the moment,” Mr. Johnson said. His comments were the latest evidence that the recent cyberintrusions have triggered alarm within the Obama administration about the potential for hacking to disrupt the election, and how to respond.
The White House on Wednesday played down the dangers, saying voters should not worry about cyberattacks wreaking havoc with the election. “There are risks out there,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. “But I think the American people can have quite a bit of confidence in our ability to mitigate those risks.”