Washington, D.C. — Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson today warned that too many state election systems remain vulnerable to attack despite clear signs that Russian hackers could again try to target voting infrastructure.
Johnson told an audience at the Center for American Progress that even with clear evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, not enough lawmakers on both sides of the aisle regard election hacking as a direct threat to U.S. democracy. He noted that national elections often come down to just five or six swing states.
“If you can target key precincts in swing states and influence the outcome there, you can influence the national outcome of a presidential election,” Johnson said.
His comments came as CAP released a 50-state report showing that most state election systems remain vulnerable to hacking and foreign interference in the election process.
Also at the CAP event, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) called on Congress to pass a bipartisan measure she authored that would give states more money to upgrade security. She also called for protections including post-election audits; holding social media ads to the same standards as print, radio, and TV ads; and establishing an independent commission to find out Russia’s exact role in interfering in the 2016 election.
With just 226 days until the midterm elections, “we still cannot assure Americans that our elections are secure,” Klobuchar said. “It is unacceptable and at this point now, it’s on us.”
She added, “This is a pivotal moment. And how does the saying go, ‘Hack me once, shame on you, hack me twice, shame on us.’”
Jamil N. Jaffer, founder of the National Security Institute and an adjunct law professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, said that securing the nation’s election cybersecurity is a bipartisan issue and a national security issue.
“This needs to be a partnership between federal and state governments,” Jaffer said. “There is an opportunity there, but I’m worried we’re too late for 2018.”
CAP’s election security report assigns grades to all 50 states based on their adherence to best practices in seven categories, including security measures for voter registration databases, using paper ballots, and conducting post-election audits. No state received an A, and only 11 states received a B. Five states received failing grades.
The biggest threat to election security is the continued use of paperless electronic voting machines, which are vulnerable to hacking and do not leave a reliable paper trail that can be audited to confirm election outcomes, the report found.
Watch a video of Johnson’s remarks and the panel discussion: Election Security in 50 States: Defending America’s Elections
Read the report: Election Security in All 50 States: Defending America’s Elections by Danielle Root, Liz Kennedy, Michael Sozan, and Jerry Parshall
To see the matrix of state grades, click here.
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Elena Gaona at gro.ssergorpnacirema@anoage or 202.478.6322.