Two U.S. Senators Propose Election Security Bill to the National Defense Authorization Act

In light of the media storm on election security, Senators Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to address the issue. The proposed bill would provide federal dollars to States for updating their election cybersecurity.

The proposed amendment SA 656 calls for adding the following section to H.R. 2810 (the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018):

“Assisting States in adopting best practices for protecting the integrity of federal elections.”

As well as the language below that is intended to amend The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) by inserting the following language after section 247:

“Study and report on best practices for protecting the integrity of federal elections and for storing and securing voter registration data.”

Paul Rosenzweig summed up the bill nicely in the blog, Lawfare:

  • Tasks DHS and the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) with developing a set of “best practices” for the cybersecurity of the electoral infrastructure; and
  • Authorizes Election Technology Improvement grants to the States to be used to address identified risks and vulnerabilities to purchase new and/or upgrade older election system hardware.

Lawfare’s Managing Editor, Susan Hennessey, who is also a fellow in national security in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, spoke Friday morning on a panel at the Brookings Institution titled, “National security imperative of addressing foreign cyber interference in U.S. elections.”

On the panel, Hennessey described the amendment as taking “good baby steps” towards the election integrity issue at hand. Introduced by members on both sides of the isle, the amendment itself is modest with intentions simply to study best practices and provide funding. However, state and local policy makers have expressed concern about the amendment’s efforts intrusion in state election via the federal government.

While the NDAA has yet to be passed, the amendment will also have to survive the House to become law where it could then be possible to take steps to conduct studies and hopefully provide funding to the States for enhancing election security.