Wyden: White House must act now to protect U.S. election system

Washington, D.C. –Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today asked the White House to move quickly to strengthen the cybersecurity of federal elections, in a letter to National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Jr.

 Following this administration’s lackluster response to the unprecedented Russian hacking efforts during the 2016 election, Wyden asked the White House to take concrete steps to improve security ahead of the next election. Election security, Wyden said, is too important to be left entirely to state election offices.

 “While some states have taken the threats seriously, others are seriously lagging behind and remain woefully vulnerable to foreign government cyberattacks,” Wyden said. “As such, the federal government must take action: leaving federal election cybersecurity to the states is irresponsible and a total abdication of the federal government’s primary role in matters of national security.”

Wyden asked the White House to take a number of steps, including:

  1. Designate a senior White House official to “own” the issue of election cybersecurity and require that official to brief Congress regularly on cybersecurity threats, mitigation efforts underway, and key barriers to implementation.
  2. Direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create an objective framework to grade states on their election cybersecurity and publish annual “scorecards” giving each state a letter grade and describing the areas in which each needs to improve.
  3. Direct DHS to designate political campaigns as part of our nation’s critical infrastructure so that campaigns can receive cybersecurity assistance if they request it.
  4. Direct the Secret Service to expand Presidential candidate security to include cybersecurity. At the very least, the Secret Service should help candidates and their campaigns secure email, voice, and text communications.

Wyden has pressed for new election cybersecurity measures, introducing vote-by-mail legislation that creates a guaranteed, auditable paper trail for every vote cast, and asking voting machine manufacturers what steps they are taking to protect Americans’ votes from hacking.