Experts Available: Senate Intel Committee Releases Draft Security Recommendations to Protect Election Systems

March 20, 2018

New York, N.Y. –  Members of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released recommendations today for steps that the Department of Homeland Security, and state and local election officials, should take to secure voting infrastructure from foreign tampering. Lawmakers’ suggestions largely mirror solutions that election experts from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law have been pushing for years.
 
“The Senate Intelligence Committee identifies many of the most important steps in protecting America’s election infrastructure from hostile foreign powers,” said Lawrence Norden, Deputy Director of the Democracy Program. “While key federal, state, and local authorities have recently taken important actions to shore up our country’s election systems, more needs to be done. Many election officials have told us they don’t have the resources to implement these changes by themselves, particularly when it comes to upgrading and replacing equipment. Congress must not only recommend changes but provide the resources that will spur widespread infrastructure updates around the country, and they must do it soon.”
 
The Intelligence committee lawmakers recommend that officials not only bolster cybersecurity of election systems, but take steps to secure vote tallies by using machines with a back-up paper record. They ask states to consider widespread audits that check the vote totals from electronic machines against tallies from paper ballots.
 
The Brennan Center has found that by a number of key metrics, the country has failed to make significant progress on securing voting machines since 2016, despite increasing warnings about vulnerabilities across the country. Specifically:

  • This year, 41 states will be using systems that are at least a decade old, and officials in 33 say they must replace their machines by 2020. In most cases, elections officials do not yet have adequate funds to do so.
  • In 2018, 13 states will still use paperless voting machines, and five will continue to use such systems statewide. Only Virginia has decertified and replaced all of its paperless systems since 2016.
  • In 43 states and the District of Columbia, some residents will still use machines that are no longer manufactured.

While the Department of Homeland Security, and states and counties around the country have done their best to adopt many of the recommendations listed today, Congress has stalled on national legislation that would help states implement important changes.
 
Read more about protecting election infrastructure in the Brennan Center’s report, Securing Elections from Foreign Interference. Read more about America’s outdated voting infrastructure here. And read more about the Center’s Voting Rights and Elections work here.
 

For more information or to connect with a Brennan Center expert, contact Rebecca Autrey at rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or 646-292-8316.

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