Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
December 21, 2017

Klobuchar, Lankford, Harris, Graham Introduce Bipartisan Election Security Bill

Bill would protect against foreign interference of future elections

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), James Lankford (R-OK), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today introduced the Secure Elections Act, a bill to strengthen election cybersecurity in America and protect against foreign interference in future elections. Cosponsors include Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

During the 2016 election, intelligence reports established that Russia hacked presidential campaign accounts, launched cyberattacks against at least 21 state election systems, and attacked a US voting systems software company. To protect future elections, the Secure Elections Act streamlines cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence entities and state election agencies; provides security clearances to state election officials; and provides resources for states to upgrade election security. This bipartisan solution would bolster our election systems against future threats while protecting states’ primacy in running elections. 

“Election security is national security, and our election systems have become a target for foreign adversaries,” said Klobuchar, Ranking Member of the Rules Committee with jurisdiction over federal elections. “The freedom to choose our leaders and know with full confidence that those leaders were chosen in free and fair elections is something that Americans have fought and died for since our country was founded. We must do everything in our power to protect our democracy from future attacks, and ensure those on the front-lines of administering elections are equipped with the tools and resources necessary to keep them safe. Time is of the essence, the next federal election is less than a year away.”

“Safe and free elections run by individual states are at the core of our national identity,” said Lankford, a member of the Intelligence Committee. “We were born as a nation because patriots stood up against foreign tyranny. During the 2016 elections, Russia tried to interfere in our elections. Although they didn’t change actual votes or alter the outcome, their efforts were an attack on our democracy. It is imperative that we strengthen our election systems and give the states the tools they need to protect themselves and the integrity of voters against the possibility of foreign interference. In this new digital age, we should ensure the states have the resources they need to protect our election infrastructure.”

“Russia attacked the very heart of our democracy when they interfered in the 2016 election,” said Harris. “Russia will be back to interfere again with the 2018 elections just around the corner. We must act now to fortify our election system against attacks by foreign powers in a way that is smart and allows for effective communication and information-sharing between election and intelligence officials.”

“The Russians have been trying to break the backs of democracies all over the world,” said Graham. “And although they did not change the outcome, they clearly interfered in our 2016 election.  This bipartisan legislation will help defend our elections from foreign interference and sends a strong signal to other bad actors -- like Iran and North Korea -- that similar acts will not be tolerated.  We are committed to defending and promoting confidence in American democracy by providing states with the resources they need to safeguard their election systems.”

Details of the Secure Elections Act:

  • Reaffirms individual state leadership in administering federal elections.
  • Ensures the federal government, specifically the Department of Homeland Security, promptly shares election cybersecurity threats and information with state, county, and municipal election agencies.
  • Provides security clearances to appropriate state officials so they can access and act quickly on classified cybersecurity information.
  • Develops, through a panel of independent experts and an open process, a set of voluntary cybersecurity guidelines for election-related systems.
  • Authorizes block grants for electronic voting machine upgrades and implementation of cybersecurity guidelines.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, Klobuchar has introduced legislation to improve the security of U.S. election systems and make commonsense improvements to election administration. Klobuchar and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) have also introduced the bipartisan Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act to strengthen disclosure by requiring federal campaigns to use existing credit card verification protocols to help verify that online credit card donations come from U.S. sources. In June, Klobuchar introduced the Helping State and Local Governments Prevent Cyber Attacks Act to help combat foreign interference by providing state and local governments with the information and resources they need to keep our elections secure and improve voter confidence.

In addition, Klobuchar has led Senate Rules Committee Democrats in a call for hearings and briefings on foreign attempts to hack into U.S. election systems and improving cybersecurity. Klobuchar also led a group of 26 senators in calling for a full account of the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) efforts to address Russian cybersecurity threats. In early January, Klobuchar introduced legislation with four other senators to create an independent, nonpartisan commission to comprehensively investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.


Brennan Center for Justice

For Immediate Release: December 21, 2017

Senators Introduce Bill to Protect Election Systems from Cyberattacks

Washington, D.C. – Lawmakers in the Senate introduced legislation today that would help states prevent cyberattacks on election infrastructure and enhance confidence in vote totals from electronic voting machines. The bill comes amid ongoing revelations about Russia’s unprecedented attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.  
The Secure Elections Act is co-sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). It aligns with recommendations in a June 2017 report — Securing Elections from Foreign Interference — from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. 
“With so many threats to the integrity of our elections, this bill is a welcome step forward in shielding our democracy from foreign interference,” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and co-author of Securing Elections from Foreign Interference. “The steps outlined in this proposed bill are ones we believe will both secure our electoral systems and reaffirm voter confidence. Congress should act quickly and decisively to approve these commonsense reforms.”
The bill would foster more timely and thorough communication on election security issues; authorize federal funds for cities and states to run risk assessments and address any shortcomings; help states replace old voting machines with new ones that create back-up paper ballots from every vote; and create an advisory panel to develop guidelines on best practices in election cybersecurity issues.
“It can sometimes seem like everything falls victim to partisan bickering in Washington, D.C., but there are some issues where there should be no disagreement,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel in the Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C., office. “It's heartening to see bipartisan consensus on shoring up our national election infrastructure. Secure, trustworthy election systems are essential to protecting a free and fair democracy.”
Similar legislation was introduced in the House in September by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Langevin (D-R.I.). Langevin is co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus.
Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on securing voting infrastructure and preventing foreign interference here.  

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