The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lists 16 sectors as “critical infrastructure” potentially affecting our national security, items considered “so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety.” The list includes nuclear reactors, government facilities and buildings including federal buildings and national monuments, defense and military bases, transportation systems like airports and pipelines, and communications infrastructure like satellites and cell phone towers.
But election machines are missing from that list. H.R. 6073, the Election Infrastructure and Security Promotion Act, was introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA4) to add them.
What the bill does
Amid concerns caused by Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee earlier this year and widespread fears of voter fraud that could potentially be committed on electronic voting machines of dubious security, the DHS still has never added voting systems to that 16-item critical infrastructure list. This bill would do so. It would also requires DHS to publish a “comprehensive plan” on protecting critical electoral process from threats, including cyber-terrorism.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill is a necessary protective measure amid heightened fears of election hacking or cyber-terrorism, to help ensure the legitimacy of the most sacred process of American democracy.
“When DHS labels an asset as critical infrastructure it heightens its security obligations and requires DHS to provide increased support,” lead House sponsor Johnson said at a press conference. “Certainly our nation’s electoral infrastructure should command the same level of federal government security and protection as does the power grid, our water supply or our air-traffic control system.”
What opponents say
Opponents argue the bill could provide another level of federal bureaucracy that could potentially go awry, and many Republicans think it may be a Democratic-led plot to increase their influence on the voting process.
Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler voiced those worries when delivering testimony to Congress. “I don’t think critical infrastructure protection is needed at all,” Schedler said. “I don’t mean to be flippant, but do we really want to create a new TSA for elections?”
“DHS officials admitted they had no evidence of any ‘credible threat’ of a cyber-attack. But designating the nation’s election system as ‘critical infrastructure’ under a post 9/11 federal statute may be a way for the administration to get Justice Department lawyers, the FBI, and DHS staff into polling places they would otherwise have no legal right to access, which would enable them to interfere with election administration procedures around the country,” Hans von Spakovsky wrote in the Conservative Review.
Odds of passage
The bill has attracted 27 cosponsors, all Democrats. It has not yet received a vote in the House Homeland Security or House Administration Committees.