Election security. This discussion concerning election security has been at the forefront of U.S. politics and the media for well over a year. The American public has received differing perspectives and reports on what has or has not happened. Top intelligence officials have reported not having received any presidential guidance in terms of devising a strategy to combat these concerns to prevent recurrence. These testimonies have left many of American lawmakers and the population confused about the seemingly lack of urgency on the White House’s part.
Yesterday, taking the initiative upon themselves, the Senate Intelligence Committee (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, or SSCI) released a bipartisan list of recommendations to began the restructuring process of the U.S. election infrastructure. The committee listed six recommendations that were designed to address the vulnerabilities within the election system that were exposed during the 2016 presidential election. The recommendations are listed below:
- Reinforce States’ Primacy in Running Elections
- Build a Stronger Defense, Part I: Create Effective Deterrence
- Build a Stronger Defense, Part II: Improve Information Sharing on Threats
- Build a Stronger Defense, Part III: Secure Election-Related Systems
- Build a Stronger Defense, Part IV: Take Steps to Secure the Vote Itself, and
- Assistance for the States
The Senate Intelligence Committee suggested that this list was not meant to be taken as comprehensive, but it was formulated to begin the process of enacting security measures to protect the nation’s election infrastructure. Speaking to this, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said, “The Russians…will continue their efforts to undermine public confidence in western democracies and in the legitimacy of our elections.” As a result, the committee concluded that “more needs to be done.” As an issue that transcends party lines and threatens to incapacitate the American democracy, the committee’s report called for a more concentrated and collaborative effort from the federal government and the state governments to work cohesively.
Meanwhile, today, the Senate Intelligence Committee is continuing their investigative efforts by holding hearings with the current and former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leaders, several state election administrators, and election experts. Current DHS Secretary (SECHS), Kirstjen Nielsen, informed the committee that the agency has placed election cyber security above other critical infrastructures under its administration. SECHS Nielsen also mentioned that communication efforts have been underway and points of contact have been made at the state level. In addition to this, SECHS Nielsen reported that “more than half of the U.S. states have signed up for cyber scanning services designed to detect potential weaknesses” that could attract hackers.
In the final analysis, the American election system is under great scrutiny and it appears that efforts are being made to conduct a major overhaul of the system. It is not certain that system-wide improvements will be completed prior to the mid-term elections this year, or, even by the 2020 presidential election, according to Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. However, what matters the most is that the initiative has been taken to address the much-needed systems upgrade. As the committee’s reports emphasized that “more needs to be done,” the American public will be more than likely holding them accountable to these words.
Sean Mungin, author of “The Thorn In The Flesh”