From his seat on the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., is helping lead the charge on Capitol Hill to protect U.S. elections from cyberattacks.
Rooney joined three other members of the HPSCI--Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Democrat U.S. Reps. Jim Himes of Connecticut and Terri Sewell of Alabama to bring out the “Secure Elections Act” which gives state and local governments access to grants to update their election systems and voting machines. The proposal gives the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), more leeway to provide state election officials relevant information about cyberattacks and other threats to the electoral process.
Himes in the main sponsor of the bill which he introduced at the end of last month.
“Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy,” said Himes on Friday. “Russian actors targeted our elections infrastructure during the 2016 elections and will continue these attacks on our elections. We must act now to protect our election systems from attacks by foreign actors who seek to erode our democracy and undermine the foundations of our government’s legitimacy. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that the first line of defense – those on the frontlines of administering elections – have the information, modern equipment, financial resources and federal support needed to protect our elections.”
“Although the Russian government didn’t change the outcome of the 2016 election, they certainly interfered with the intention of sowing discord and undermining Americans’ faith in our democratic process,” Rooney said on Friday. “There’s no doubt in my mind they will continue to meddle in our elections this year and in the future.
“It’s critical that we provide our local and state election offices with the resources they need to harden their systems against cyberattacks,” Rooney added. “The funding provided by this bill will allow our communities to close vulnerabilities and prepare for the future, rather than sit around and wait for the next attack.”
“Hostile foreign actors have attempted and will continue to attempt to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy by attacking our electoral process,” said Gowdy. “It is our responsibility to take every precaution necessary to safeguard our elections and ensure no vote count is ever interfered with. By streamlining communication between the federal government and states and authorizing grants for state and local governments to modernize their election infrastructure, the Secure Elections Act will ensure states have the tools they need to protect our electoral process.”
“Our democracy is our nation’s greatest asset and it is our job to protect its integrity,” said Sewell. “We know from our intelligence community that Russian entities launched cyberattacks against our election infrastructure in 2016, exploiting at least 21 state election systems. As the 2018 elections approach, action is urgently needed to protect our democracy against another attack. Today’s bipartisan bill takes a huge step forward by providing election officials with the resources and information they need to keep our democracy safe.”
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Financial Services Committee.
U.S. Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., brought out the Senate version in March. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is a cosponsor.