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Protecting the Integrity of U.S. Elections

Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of our republic. With the 2018 midterm election less than three months away, making certain the integrity of our voting system remains intact is a top priority. When Americans cast their votes in an election, they are exercising their right to make their voice heard. Many of our young men and women in uniform fight every day to protect our ability to choose our own leaders safely and freely. Assuring American citizens that their voice will be heard when they cast their ballot is vitally important to our way of life.

While we cannot say they affected the outcome, we know that Russia made extreme efforts to directly influence the 2016 election and attempted to get into at least 21 state election systems. There is also evidence they are trying similar tactics in the upcoming midterm election, with a goal of creating chaos and distrust in our system of government. So far, they have been unsuccessful, and we must make certain proper federal policies are in place to keep it that way.

Fortunately, Congress has taken steps to protect the integrity of our elections. The omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year 2018 included $380 million in funding for election security grants to help states protect and modernize their election systems. These funds can be used to make security improvements, implement cybersecurity guidelines and replace outdated electronic voting machines. Additionally, I am a cosponsor of the Secure Elections Act, a bipartisan bill that would streamline cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence agencies and state election agencies. It would also provide security clearances to state election officials. This is a good step toward securing our election systems against future threats while also protecting states’ rights in running their elections. 

As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Cybersecurity Subcommittee, my colleagues and I have received expert testimony on cyber-enabled information operations to include the gathering and dissemination of information in the cyber domain. While we have taken important steps to protect our elections, more must be done. Ultimately, we must address the broader policy and strategy deficiencies that undermine our overall cyber posture. 

Our election system is part of what makes the United States the greatest country in the world. Our ability to develop a strategy to better protect our election system and deter cyber adversaries from attacking it is critical.  Doing so will require an ongoing commitment, and I will continue to work with the administration to develop policies that deter and punish bad actors who think they can meddle in our election system. We must continue to make it clear to Russia and others that irresponsible, destabilizing behavior will not be tolerated and those who do attempt to interfere in our elections will face serious consequences. Our confidence in our democratic process depends on it.