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Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren Announces Plan to Protect Vote, Election Security, Strengthen our Democracy

Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren, US Senator from Massachusetts, proposes a sweeping, comprehensive plan to protect access to the ballot box and the security of elections © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Charlestown, MA – Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, Democratic US Senator from Massachusetts, released her plan to make voting easy and convenient and secure our elections from threats both foreign and domestic:

Elections are the foundation of our democracy, but in the United States – the greatest democracy in the world – our government treats voting like it’s one of the least important things we do. We have around 8,000 election jurisdictions all doing their own thing. They are overstretched, under-resourced, and their technology is often laughably out of date.

Voting should be easy. But instead, many states make it hard for people to vote. We have all heard stories about polling places running out of ballots, computer problems causing delays, ballot designs confusing voters, and extremely long lines preventing working people from voting. And on top of these administrative issues, racist and partisan officials often deliberately seek to stop citizens from exercising the right to vote. States have purged names from the voter rolls, limited same-day registration, closed polling places in communities of color, used voter ID laws to try to disenfranchise Native Americans, and even placed restrictions and criminal penalties on efforts to register new voters.

Our elections should be as secure as Fort Knox. But instead, they’re less secure than your Amazon account. State and local officials take their jobs seriously, but they often don’t have the resources to secure their elections. Even then, it’s hard for local officials to defend against attacks from foreign governments. In the 2016 election, the Russian government tried to infiltrate at least 39 state election systems and at least one election equipment company. They tried to spear-phish more than 100 local election officials’ email accounts. They even successfully broke into several voter registration databases. 

The harsh truth is that our elections are extremely vulnerable to attack: Forty-two states use voter registration databases that are more than a decade old. Laughably, in 2019, some still use Windows 2000 and Windows XPTwelve states still use paperless machines, meaning there’s no paper trail to verify vote counts. Some states don’t require post-election audits. And ten states don’t train election officials to deal with cybersecurity threats. This is a national security threat, and three years after a hostile foreign power literally attacked our democracy, we’ve done far too little to address it. 

We need a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote. But the moral necessity of this amendment shouldn’t stop us from acting now. The federal government already has the power to regulate federal elections, secure our democracy, and put a stop to racist voter suppression. 

Under our Constitution, Congress can regulate the “Times, Places, and Manner,” of federal elections. This power is so broad that even Justice Scalia believed this provision gives Congress “authority to provide a complete code for congressional elections.” Congress also has the power to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to prevent voting discrimination, and the power of the purse to grant money to the states to meet federal standards. It’s time to draw on these constitutional powers to strengthen our democracy. 

Enough is enough. It is time to make high-quality voting in the greatest democracy in the world easy, convenient, and professional. It’s time to secure our elections from all threats, foreign and domestic. It’s time to address election security, administration problems, and voter suppression. 

Here’s how my plan will work:

  • Federal elections get state-of-the-art federal machines, federal ballots, and federal security. Right now some jurisdictions use dated machines that are easily hackable with no paper trail. Ballot design is all over the place. No more. The federal government will replace every voting machine in the country with state-of-the-art equipment and require adoption of a uniform federal ballot. And we will lock all federal voting technology systems behind a security firewall like it’s Fort Knox.
  • Federal standards for federal elections. We have 8,000 election jurisdictions running elections. Problems with resources, malfeasance, and errors are rampant. No more. We will have federal standards to ensure everyone can vote, including mandating automatic and same-day registration, early voting, and vote by mail. My plan will mean no more arbitrary voter purges. No more registration issues. And no more gerrymandering. We will also make Election Day a holiday to make it easier for people to get to the polls.
  • Enforce the law and expand access – through incentives where possible, and with federal authority where necessary. My plan will give states cutting-edge voting equipment and election security protocols, all paid for by the federal government, and states will be required to follow all federal standards for federal elections. States who also choose to meet these requirements in their state elections can work through federal-state partnership agreements to have those elections fully funded by the federal government, too – and we’ll give them a bonus for achieving high voter turnout rates. And where racist or corrupt politicians refuse to follow the law, the federal government will temporarily take over the administration of their federal elections to guarantee the fundamental right to vote.
     

Securing Our Elections

Under my plan, federal elections will get state-of-the-art federal machines, federal ballots, and federal security.  The federal government will replace insecure and outdated systems with hand-marked, voter-verified paper ballot machines. To prevent hanging-chads and other confusing ballot designs, we’ll have uniform federal ballots all across the country that are based on easy-to-use design principles. The federal government will also provide every polling location with accessible ballot machines for people with disabilities and conduct research into how to improve voting security and accessibility for all people, including those with disabilities and people for whom English isn’t their primary language. 

Through a new independent Secure Democracy Administration, which will replace the Election Assistance Commission and be staffed by civil servants, the federal government will manage the cybersecurity aspects of elections and develop additional security procedures for election administration and the end-to-end handling of ballots. States will implement these additional security measures, and will receive technical assistance and training from the Secure Democracy Administration. In addition, states will be required to conduct risk-limiting audits prior to certifying elections – and we’ll have independent oversight of those audits.
 

Establishing Binding Federal Standards for Federal Elections

Our elections are never going to be secure, fair, or workable with so many jurisdictions each making their own rules — especially when some officials deliberately manipulate those rules to stop people from voting. Under my plan, we’ll have a uniform set of federal election standards that achieve four goals:

No more registration problems. My plan will mandate automatic voter registration and same-day registration for federal elections. State and federal government agencies will automatically register voters and transfer that information to state elections officials, and voters can opt-out, if they choose. Every state will also be required to offer same-day registration, which acts as a fail-safe for anyone who is mistakenly left off the rolls. 

No more voter purges. Under my plan, states will be banned from removing voters from the election rolls unless the voter affirmatively requests to be removed or there is objective evidence of a legitimate reason to remove them, like death, change of address, or loss of eligibility to vote. We will also re-enfranchise those who have served their time and left prison.  

No more difficulties voting. We will make Election Day a national holiday, and all federal elections will have a minimum of 15 days of early voting, expanded voting hours, the option to vote with a sworn statement of identity instead of an ID, convenient polling locations, and voting by mail. And we will pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Native American Voting Rights Act to shut down a host of festering discriminatory practices.  

No more gerrymandering. Under my plan, states will be required to use independent redistricting commissions to draw federal congressional districts to prevent gerrymandering. Both parties should compete on a level playing field; not in a rigged game designed to suppress the will of the people.  
 

Enforcing the law and expanding access – through incentives where possible, and with federal authority where necessary

Our democracy shouldn’t be about keeping people out – it should strive to bring everyone to the polls. Under my plan, states will receive new state-of-the-art machines and federal election security, all paid for by the federal government, and they will also be obligated to comply with the federal standards for federal elections. But we should make voting easier in all elections – federal, state, and local. I’m proposing a federal-state partnership so that states will have a strong financial incentive to follow these rules in their state and local elections as well — and to maximize voter turnout.

Here’s how it will work: the federal government will pay the entirety of a state’s election administration costs, as long as the state meets federal standards in its state and local elections and works to make voting more convenient. States will create state implementation plans, describing how they will adhere to federal law and increase access to voting (e.g. location of polling places). The Secure Democracy Administration will review state implementation plans for compliance with federal law, election security protocols, potentially racially discriminatory impacts, and efforts to make voting more convenient. States that achieve high percentage voter turnout, including across racial, gender, and age groups, will be awarded additional bonus payments. All plans will be finalized well in advance of Election Day, and states will provide data on their election activities. If a state does not participate in the federal-state partnership, but a local jurisdiction within the state wishes to do so, the local jurisdiction can work with the federal government to create a local implementation plan and it will get access to federal funds to cover its election administration costs.  

States can choose to follow their own rules for their state and local elections. But if they do, they won’t receive new funding for administering state elections beyond election security measures, and they will still have to administer federal elections in accordance with federal law – including preclearance for any changes that might have a discriminatory impact under the Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

If state or local election officials choose to ignore these federal rules and instead move to violate them, my plan will give the Secure Democracy Administration the authority to seek a court order to step in and guarantee that every voter has access to the polls unless or until the state shows its intent to fully comply with federal law. The right to vote is a fundamental right, and we will not let racist and corrupt politicians undermine it or our democracy. 

Our democracy is too important for it to be under-resourced and insecure. We need to do everything we can to make sure our elections are convenient, professional, and secure — and we should be willing to pay for it. Based on estimates of national election administration expenses, recent state efforts to upgrade their election systems, and assessments of the costs of new machines and audits, to cover these costs, we would allocate around $20 billion over ten years, which includes around $15 billion for election administration and around $5 billion for election security. This investment can be fully paid for with revenue generated from the Ultra-Millionaire Tax.

Democracy hangs on the idea that whoever gets the most votes wins. Politicians are supposed to compete over how many voters they can persuade, not how many they can disqualify or demoralize. And we have a solemn obligation to secure our elections from those who would try to undermine them. That’s why the Constitution gives Congress the tools to regulate the administration of federal elections. It’s time to pick up those tools and use them.

Read more about Warren’s plan here 

Amidst Reports of Russian Election Hacking, Cuomo Unveils Steps to Strengthen NYS CyberSecurity

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo takes new steps to further secure New York State’s elections infrastructure and protect against foreign interference © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In the wake of Donald Trump’s apparent indifference to the continued threat of Russia and other actors against elections, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a comprehensive initiative with the State Board of Elections to further secure New York State’s elections infrastructure and protect against foreign interference. The initiative will help County Boards of Elections strengthen their election cyber security in the face of foreign threats after the Department of Justice released an indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking during the 2016 elections, which also alleged that Russian intelligence officers hacked into the website of a yet-unidentified state board of elections.

In the FY 2019 budget, Governor Cuomo secured $5 million to expand and further support statewide election cyber security infrastructure. The State will solicit contracts in the next few days for three independent services for County Boards of Elections, including: 1) cyber security risk assessments; 2) enhanced intrusion detection devices; and 3) managed security services. The State’s Secure Election Center, managed by the State Board of Elections, will also provide statewide, uniform cybersecurity training to all state and county election officials and staff prior to the Midterm Elections.

“While President Trump stands by those who seek to undermine our democracy, New York is taking aggressive action to protect our elections from foreign interference,” Governor Cuomo said. “There is nothing more sacred than democracy, and New Yorkers should know that when they cast their ballot that their vote is safe. The groundbreaking cyber security initiative we launch today will harden and protect our election infrastructure from the very real threat of foreign meddling. While the President has abdicated his responsibility to defend this country and left our electoral system open to sabotage by foreign adversaries, New York is fighting back and leading the way.”

“The integrity of our Elections system is our number one priority,” Co-Executive Director of the State Board of Elections Robert A. Brehmsaid. “The State Board has and will continue to diligently work and collaborate with our federal, state and county partners to strengthen and protect our elections infrastructure from any interference.”

“We have been working diligently since the 2016 election to improve security at the State Board, including our statewide voter registration database and networks with our counties,” Co-Executive Director of the State Board of Elections Todd D. Valentine said. “These additional services will ensure publicly facing applications and infrastructure for the county boards of elections will be more secure and better position the entire state elections system to respond to cyber incidents.  These new revelations only serve to confirm that the measures we have taken so far to protect our elections are necessary and we have to remain vigilant as we move into the mid-term elections.”

This initiative builds on Governor Cuomo’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of elections in New York State. The State will execute contractsbeginning the first week of August through the Office of General Services on behalf of the State Board of Elections.

Comprehensive Risk Assessment for all County Boards of Election

The State Board of Elections will contract for professional services to conduct a comprehensive, uniform and verified risk assessment at every County Board of Elections. The State Board of Elections has conducted a County Board of Elections risk survey to gain an understanding of the security posture of each county board. This risk assessment will build off the county risk survey.  This contract will provide a uniform and verified third party risk assessment which is critical in ascertaining a security baseline for our statewide elections infrastructure.

Enhanced Intrusion Detection Systems and Managed Security Services for County Boards of Election 

Additionally, the State Board of Elections will contract for a vendor to provide enhanced intrusion detection systems and managed security services for all the County Boards of Elections. An intrusion detection system is a system that monitors network traffic for suspicious activity and issues alerts when such activity is discovered. Managed Security Services correlate logs/traffic and creates actionable reports on malicious cyber activity. Quote solicitations will seek to identify qualified companies on backdrop contracts that can fulfill the request for these services.

Cyber Security Training Program

The Secure Elections Center, housed in NYSBOE, will provide uniform online technical training courses and security awareness programs to all state and county election officials and staff. These web-based trainings will be provided prior to the 2018 Midterm Elections. As part of these trainings, officials and staff will learn cyber-hygiene, best email practices and how to identify phishing campaigns, among other topics.

This initiative will build upon Governor Cuomo’s efforts to safeguard New York State elections including:

  • The State Board of Elections recently concluded a first-of-its-kind series of six regional tabletop exercises to identify risks and safeguard the election process against a cyber-attack.  The State Board is coordinating with the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide three on-line tabletop exercises in August 2018 for county election and IT professionals.
  • Following the Governor’s 2018 State of the State proposals in January, New York was recognized as having one of the most secure elections systems in the nation in the Center for American Progress’ recent report.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “With the Trump administration putting our country at risk and continuing to ignore the reality of Russian election interference, it’s up to New York to lead the way once again to protect the integrity of our elections. Sadly, we can’t count on the current federal government to protect us from threats of foreign election meddling. Our new cyber security initiative will give New Yorkers peace of mind as they go to the ballot box and will protect our democracy from those who seek to cause harm.”

William Pelgrin, Co-Chair of Governor Cuomo’s Cyber Security Advisory Board, Founder of the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), CEO of CyberWA, Inc., and Board Director and Global Strategic Advisor for Global Cyber Alliance, said, “This announcement again demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s and New York’s strong commitment toward an enhanced cyber security posture. This initiative will greatly assist County Board of Elections by facilitating the process to identify and deploy key essential layers of cyber security. Cyber security risk assessments and intrusion detection devices are critical layers of preparedness to understand one’s computing infrastructure and what is required to address any associated risks as well as continuously monitoring that environment for malicious activities.”

Richard Clarke, Governor Cuomo’s Cyber Security Advisory Board Member, Chairman and CEO, Good Harbor Consulting, LLC and Former White House Counter-Terrorism and Cyber Security Advisor, said, “Given the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russian efforts to interfere in our democracy continue, Governor Cuomo’s steps to protect the election infrastructure are commendable and should be immediately copied by other states.”

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Roger Parrino said, “Security of our election process is paramount. These initiatives support our state and local partners to strengthen our election cyber infrastructure from those who seek to manipulate our election process.”

New York State Office of General Service Commissioner RoAnnDestito said, “Governor Cuomo has been clear that secure elections are fundamental to democracy and these steps by the Board of Elections will help further protect this process in New York State.”

After Trump tried to undo the damage of his statements in Helsinki by claiming that he “misspoke” when he left out “not” regarding whether Russia was to blame for hacking the 2016 election, Cuomo took him to task.

“Mr. President: Do you think the American people are stupid? You’re the leader of the free world – you don’t misspeak when it comes to our foreign enemies. You shamefully defended those who tried to sabotage our democracy, and now Congress must decide if your remarks or actions were in fact treasonous.

“While it’s clear we cannot rely on this federal government to protect the sanctity of our elections, New York will do everything in its power to.  In light of this potential foreign interference, today we announced a groundbreaking cyber security initiative to strengthen our election infrastructure.  I urge Congress to step up and do the same.”

In Helsinki, Trump had said, “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server.” The next day, in a room full of Republican Congressmembers, Trump claimed that he should have said, “would not be”.