Department of Homeland Security to Allow State Election Officials Higher Level Security Clearance

In efforts to better defend the integrity of the election system, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will allow top state election officials – Secretaries of State and Election Directors – to apply for access to “secret” level clearance which would allow them to learn more about past, present and future election security information.

“Secret” level clearance is mid-level clearance; therefore, State election officials would be exposed to classified information but not the nation’s top secrets. DHS hopes this new policy will give election administrators the type of information that they will need moving forward in defending election systems.

In January 2017, DHS formally designated election systems in the states as “critical infrastructure,” with the intention of elevating election technology and cybersecurity threats a greater priority.

Issues of “ownership” of data and election systems were raised during recent Congressional hearings where it was explained that while the State’s chief election official should have been notified upon threats of cybersecurity to the election data or infrastructure, the top election official may not always have been classified as the “owner.” In some cases, ownership seemed to lie with a locality or a vendor. This news prompted the letter sent in mid-July by many State election officials to DHS requesting the issuance of security clearances for election administrators in the states.

That letter was answered by DHS allowing top State election officials to request more classified information, which will hopefully provide State election officials an opportunity to play more of an offensive strategy in efforts to protect the integrity of election data and technology.