Feds grab for control over state elections

  • 9 January 2017
  • NormanL
Feds grab for control over state elections

On its way out the door, the Obama administration has decided that state election systems are part of the nation's critical infrastructure, and thus, need to be protected as if they were a power plant, or an international airport. This move has not sat well with state officials who are in charge of elections:

On Monday, the National Association of Secretaries of State lashed out at the decision, saying it is “is legally and historically unprecedented, raising many questions and concerns for states and localities with authority over the administration of our voting process."

Secretaries of state oversee elections in most states. Several of these officials have expressed concerns that the "critical infrastructure" tag could presage a federal takeover of local elections.

“While we recognize the need to share information on threats and risk mitigation in our elections at all levels of government, as we did throughout the 2016 cycle, it is unclear why a critical infrastructure classification is now necessary for this purpose,” the group added.

DHS has countered that the label does not create new regulations for states — it simply makes the cybersecurity of polling places, election machines, voter databases and other election technology a formal priority for the agency.

In revealing the move on Friday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson also argued the designation sends a signal internationally that the United States values the digital protection of its elections.

Johnson's announcement followed the release of a declassified report on Russian election cyberattacks, including confirmation that Russian hackers were behind breaches of several state election offices.

Both NASS and the Obama administration stressed that there was no evidence of cyber-enabled vote tampering.

“No credible evidence of hacking, including attempted hacking of voting machines or vote counting, was ever presented or discovered in any state," NASS said.

While we aren't yet convinced the federal government is intent on taking over state election operations, it's not out of the realm of possibility.

The surest way to make the ballot box safe from any form of electronic hacking? Using paper ballots.

But that would make far too much sense...