[Note: This item comes from reader Randall Head. DLH]
DHS designates election systems as ‘critical infrastructure’
By KATIE BO WILLIAMS
Jan 6 2017
The Obama administration on Friday afternoon announced that it has designated the country’s election infrastructure as ‘critical,’ a move that brings added federal protections to voting systems.
“Given the vital role elections play in this country, it is clear that certain systems and assets of election infrastructure meet the definition of critical infrastructure, in fact and in law,” Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a statement.
The administration has been weighing the move for some time. The announcement coincides with a report from the Intelligence Community detailing its assessment that Russia undertook a widespread influence and cyber campaign targeted at helping Donald Trump win the White House.
The Intelligence Community said Friday that no voting machines were tampered with during the 2016 election — but the breadth of the Russian cyber activity throughout the campaign raised the specter that the election infrastructure is vulnerable to digital intruders. The IC did find that Russian intruders breached elements of multiple state and local electoral boards.
The new designation will cover storage facilities, polling places, and centralized vote tabulations locations used to support the election process, as well as information and communications technology like voter registration databases, voting machines and other systems used to manage the election process and report results.
Some state and local election officials have expressed strong opposition to applying the designation in the past, arguing that it is a federal overreach.
Before the election, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp argued against designating the elections a critical infrastructure, arguing that states can make more nimble choices for their own communities without assistance from the federal government.
“Designating voting systems or any other election system as critical infrastructure would be a vast federal overreach, the cost of which would not equally improve the security of elections in the United States,” he said in an email to Nextgov in August.
Johnson said he is aware of the opposition he faces.
“Prior to reaching this determination, my staff and I consulted many state and local election officials; I am aware that many of them are opposed to this designation,” Johnson said Friday.
“This designation does not mean a federal takeover, regulation, oversight or intrusion concerning elections in this country. This designation does nothing to change the role state and local governments have in administering and running elections.”