House Democrats are requesting Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) bring DHS and FBI officials to brief all members of Congress on future election security priorities and direct all relevant committees to investigate Russian attempts to hack into 21 states’ voting systems during the 2016 election.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Ryan, representatives from 18 of the states who faced election infrastructure hacking attempts signed the letter calling for bipartisan solutions to address remaining election vulnerabilities ahead of the 2018 midterms.
“When a sovereign nation attempts to meddle in our elections, it is an attack on our country. We urge you to recognize that ensuring the security and integrity of our election system is a bipartisan issue, to request a briefing for all members of Congress from DHS and the FBI, and to direct the relevant committees to open an investigation on securing America’s election infrastructure,” wrote the House Democrats in their letter to Ryan, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Administrations Committee Ranking Member Bob Brady (D-Pa.) and Administrations Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).
The House members expressed concern that congressional inaction is stifling efforts to ensure election system integrity, and called for urgent bi-partisan attention to addressing vulnerabilities.
The 21 representatives who signed the letter called for prioritizing legislation to modernize election systems purchased over a decade ago and still utilizing outdated software, ensuring the resiliency of state voter registration records and appropriating adequate funding for election officials to improve their cyber security.
The letter arrived ahead of bipartisan legislation set to be introduced soon in the Senate by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), aimed at improving election infrastructure coordination among DHS, the intelligence community and state & local officials.
In a separate letter to new DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the bill’s sponsors urged homeland security officials to increase efforts to protect election systems from hacking, improve information sharing practices and devote more resources to combating cyber attacks and assisting with updating voting technology.
“State and local election officials are on the front lines of our democratic process. It is wrong to leave them defenseless against sophisticated cyber hackers backed by the Kremlin and other adversaries,” Lankford and Klobuchar wrote in their letter sent on Tuesday to Nielsen.
The Senators expressed concern that DHS officials took nearly a year to inform 21 states that their voting systems had faced attempted hacking.
“Our Senate legislation requires DHS cooperation and leadership on establishing information sharing processes and improving election cyber security. Given your significant experience across administrations, within the Department, and on issues of cyber security, we are hopeful that under your leadership DHS will make securing our election infrastructure a top priority,” Lankford and Klobuchar wrote. We must do everything in our power to protect our democracy from future attacks. Time is of the essence, the next federal election is less than a year away.”
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee, are currently investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.