Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday said more than a dozen states still need to improve the security of their voting systems and urged every state to take advantage of the assistance the Department of Homeland Security freely provides to help states secure their election systems.
In July, Pence said that officials in Finney County, Kan., reached out to DHS after the county’s network, including its election network, had to be shut down due to a malware attack that was remediated through a collaborative effort of federal, state and local officials.
“This action was a model of the collaboration that we need to ensure the security of our elections and we commend the state and local and federal officials that made it happen,” Pence said at a cyber security summit held by DHS in New York City, noting that state and local authorities are responsible for their election networks. DHS, in early 2017 when Barack Obama was still president, named state election systems as critical infrastructure, enabling states and localities on a voluntary basis to seek federal help with securing their systems.
Pence said 14 states “are struggling to replace outdated voting machines that still lack paper trails before the next presidential election. So today, not just as vice president but as a former governor, I want to urge, with great respect, every state to take renewed action. Take advantage of the assistance offered by our administration. Do everything in your power to strengthen and protect your election systems. You owe your constituents that and the American people expect nothing less.”
Congress, in the fiscal year 2018 appropriation, provided $380 million in assistance to states to strengthen the security of their election systems. Pence said, “We are deploying new sensors to monitor election networks and identify potential intrusions at the state and local level.
So far, 37 states are taking advantage of this program, with plans to add another 22 states and counties before this November’s mid-term elections, Pence said.
Pence also said the Trump administration has established a National Cyber Situational Awareness Room for states to connect to virtually with DHS on Election Day. He said the room has already been used during primaries in Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and West Virginia, and said that DHS is “working hard” to make sure it’s ready for other states to use this November.
Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen both said at the event that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.