National: Voting machine vendors under pressure | Politico

The top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee wants more answers from voting machine vendors after two of the three largest companies skipped Wednesday’s election security hearing. Hart InterCivic sent a representative, but Election Systems & Software and Dominion did not. “I think we should try again, and I personally plan on sending them a number of written questions, since they wouldn’t come to the hearing,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar told Eric. “They have a responsibility, when there’s only three of them, to answer our questions.” Klobuchar is the lead Democratic sponsor of the bipartisan Secure Elections Act (S. 2593), Congress’ most significant attempt yet to protect U.S. election infrastructure from hackers. Klobuchar may get her wish to bring in Dominion and ES&S — a spokeswoman for Rules Chairman Roy Blunt told MC that the panel was planning additional hearings.

One of the most striking moments of the Rules hearing came when Klobuchar asked the vendors if it was appropriate for them to continue selling electronic voting machines without paper backups, which cybersecurity experts say is a serious mistake. All three vendors said yes. The Hart executive said his firm would offer whatever local customers wanted, and another vendor representative said he didn’t “see a reason not to.” Klobuchar told Eric that she planned to follow up with the vendors about their answers. One vendor raised accessibility as a reason not to use paper; in the interview, Klobuchar noted that many states made paper backups work: “That, to me, seemed a bit of a red-herring answer.”

The vendors’ other answers to Klobuchar’s questions didn’t satisfy her, either. They promised that they let independent security researchers audit their machines, but researchers say the firms have denied their requests for decades. “We need government oversight” of voting vendors’ transparency, Klobuchar told Eric. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner sounded a similar warning in an interview with Eric outside the committee room. “When you’ve got a 90 percent [market] concentration [and] three vendors controlling the back end of our voting systems,” he said, “that’s a vulnerability.” Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden also had harsh words for the vendors at the hearing.

Despite her concern about paperless voting machines, Klobuchar said she didn’t think a bill to regulate voting technology could pass Congress. “I think it would be hard to get done,” she said. For now, her goal is the enactment of the Secure Elections Act, which she said “has a much better chance of passing” than a more regulatory measure. The bill would promote information sharing and create federal grants for election security, among other things. “We have to start somewhere,” she said. “And I think we start with this.”

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