Election winners are always happy to take the win, but the losers — and often the voters — require evidence, and that evidence needs strong backing. Modern voting systems must engender confidence that the final tally represents the true preferences of voters, without manipulation or tampering. After apparent Russian interference in the 2016 national elections, politicians nationwide are investigating our security posture. It seems that no Russian probes into Texas election systems went anywhere, but we might not be so lucky next time. Texas’s current voting systems were not designed to defend against the cyberattack skills that the Russians and other sophisticated adversaries can bring to bear. It’s time for our state to plan an orderly retirement of its old and insecure voting equipment and adopt better practices. Texas has a unique chance to be a national leader here, and there are three Texans poised to lead the charge. Director of Elections Keith Ingram heads the Secretary of State’s investigation into election security. Under the Texas Cybersecurity Act, he must issue a report — due December 1, 2018 — that contains legislative recommendations aimed at bolstering our election systems.
Under the same Act, the Senate Select Committee on Cybersecurity, chaired by Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, must issue legislative recommendations by January 13, 2019. And Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, chairs the Senate Select Committee on Election Security, which held a day-long hearing on the topic last month where I and others testified.
“There are few rights more precious — more fundamental — than [the] right to vote,” Hughes said last month.
He promised that his committee would take a “thorough look” at risks to Texas’s elections systems.
His commitment to election security is admirable. And although Nelson’s hasn’t yet tackled elections cybersecurity in her committee, I hope she too will dedicate public hearings to and engage with experts on cybersecurity, national security and elections infrastructure.
In fact, the cybersecurity report she must submit next January will be incomplete if recommendations to secure elections systems are not front and center.