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Press Release

Senators Introduce Bill to Protect Election Systems from Cyberattacks

The steps outlined in the legislation are ones the Brennan Center believes will both secure America’s electoral systems and reaffirm voter confidence.

December 21, 2017

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.  
 

To sched­ule an inter­view with a Bren­nan Center expert, please contact Rebecca Autrey at rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or 646–292–8316.

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