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In Recent Years, American Electoral Databases & Systems Have Been Targeted By Foreign Adversaries; Reports Say Congress Not Doing Nearly Enough To Secure Elections, The Wellspring Of Our Democracy 

Standing At The Center For Internet Security, Schumer Calls On Congress To Expediently Pass The Election Security Act To Fend Off Threat Of Foreign Interference 

Schumer To Congress: American Democracy Needs To Be More Secure Than Ever; Congress Must Act ASAP   

Standing at the Center for Internet Security in East Greenbush, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a renewed and significant effort to secure American elections from foreign interference and cyber-attacks. Schumer’s visit also highlighted the critical role the Center for Internet Security (CIS) plays in identifying threats and defending our democracy from foreign adversaries.

Specifically, Schumer urged Congress to expediently vote on and pass the Election Security Act, introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and cosponsored by Schumer, which would defend American elections from foreign interference and establish a $1 billion federal grant program to fortify local election systems—including those across Upstate New York.

Schumer explained that never before have American elections been under siege from foreign adversaries, like President of Russia Vladimir Putin, to the extent they are today, and argued that resources must be sent to every state and local election board immediately, to respond to the urgency and scale of the threat. Therefore, Schumer urged Congress to pass the Election Security Act as soon as possible, to protect American democracy from unrelenting foreign interference and destabilization efforts.

“Election security is not a partisan issue. Our elections are the wellspring of American democracy, the hallmark of a fair and equal government, and at a time when they are under siege from foreign adversaries, they must be protected—at all costs,” said Senator Schumer. “We’ve seen enough proof, malicious actors like Russian President Vladimir Putin are not just trying to pick the locks of our electoral systems, they are in the house and looking to cause mayhem. We need to get significant resources to every state and local board of elections in America to respond to the urgency and scale of this threat NOW. The best possible place to start is by voting on and passing the Election Security Act, which would establish a $1 billion grant program for states to fortify their election systems, and supporting the groundbreaking work of the Center for Internet Security, located in Albany’s backyard and on the frontlines of the nation’s cyber-defense.”     

Schumer explained that even though Congress has passed legislation and funding aimed at fortifying state election systems, prominent reports from leading organizations have claimed that they did not go to nearly great enough lengths to stop the threat of interference in the 2020 elections. Specifically, Schumer pointed to a recent non-partisan report from the Brennan Center for Justice and R Street Institute as proof positive of this. The report highlighted successful 2016 Russian cyber-attacking efforts to break into computer systems in Florida as a means of proving the urgency of the threat, and argued that while Congress passing $380 million in Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding for state governments to bolster their election systems and fend off foreign cyber-attacks was an important start, it was not enough. The report claimed, “Unfortunately, given the myriad security challenges faced by these states, the $380 million is not enough to address the needs of state and local offices; many have substantial election security needs that likely will not be met absent additional federal support.” Schumer said that as a result of this, Congress must answer the call and pass further funding to protect American elections.

Furthermore, testimony from top federal law enforcement and intelligence officials has maintained that U.S. adversaries, such as Russia, are still intent on meddling in American elections. For example, last month in testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections,” continuing, “My view is that until they stop they haven’t been deterred enough.” Additionally, former Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, in testimony in front of the House Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees, also commented on the continued efforts of the Russian government to interfere in American elections, saying, “They are doing it while we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.” Mueller continued, “Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious.” Schumer argued that these observations illustrate the urgent need to get additional resources into the hands of state and local election boards, to fortify the security of American election systems.

So, to address these shortcomings and vulnerabilities in American election security, Schumer called on Congress to expediently vote on and pass the Election Security Act, which would do the following:

  • Establish a $1 billion grant program for states to fortify their election systems, including funding for cybersecurity training for election officials
  • Require states to implement paper ballot voting systems, which cannot be hacked by foreign adversaries
  • Set minimum cybersecurity standards for manufacturers and vendors of voting systems
  • Direct the Director of National Intelligence to analyze potential threats to election security 180 days before an election
  • Direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Election Assistance Commission to recommend best practices to states to fend off threats to election security
  • Require that voting systems be tested for vulnerabilities nine months before they are used for elections
  • Establish a National Commission to Protect United States Democratic Institutions

Schumer was joined on his tour of CIS by DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Assistant Director for Cybersecurity Jeanette Manfra.

Additionally, Schumer pointed to the work done at the Center for Internet Security (CIS) as the type of work that needs to be supported in order to protect American election systems from foreign interference. Located in Rensselaer County, CIS is on the frontlines of American Cybersecurity, and according to the organization, its software was responsible for initially detecting Russian interference in the lead up to the 2016 elections. CIS is home to the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), which plays a paramount role in the prevention of, protection from, response to, identification of, and recovery from cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure. The MS-ISAC is used by all 56 states and territories, allowing them to receive up-to-date information on and analysis of cyber-threats. Additionally, CIS houses the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing & Analysis Center (EI-ISAC). The EI-ISAC provides election systems professionals with a full cyber-defense suite of hardware, software and expertise to fend off the threat of foreign interference.