Collins, Heinrich Unveil Bipartisan Legislation to Protect U.S. Election Systems from Foreign Interference

SAVE Act would provide increased security for election infrastructure and equip States to combat against future cyber-attacks by foreign hackers

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced bipartisan legislation to protect American election systems from foreign interference. The Securing America's Voting Equipment (SAVE) Act would help safeguard voting systems, registration data, and ballots from theft, manipulation, and malicious computer hackers. 

“While the Intelligence Committee’s investigation is still ongoing, one thing is clear: the Russians were very active in trying to influence the 2016 election and will continue their efforts to undermine public confidence in democracies,” said Senator Collins. “The fact that the Russians probed the election-related systems of 21 states is truly disturbing, and it must serve as a call to action to assist states in hardening their defenses against foreign adversaries that seek to compromise the integrity of our election process.  Our bipartisan legislation would assist states in this area by identifying best practices to protecting voting equipment, and ensuring states have the resources they need to implement those best practices."

 

"Our democracy hinges on protecting Americans' ability to fairly choose our own leaders. We must do everything we can to protect the security and integrity of our elections," said Senator Heinrich. "The SAVE Act would ensure states are better equipped to develop solutions and respond to threats posed to election systems. Until we set up stronger protections of our election systems and take the necessary steps to prevent future foreign influence campaigns, our nation's democratic institutions will remain vulnerable."

 

Intelligence assessments that Russian actors targeted state election voting centers and state-level voter registration databases as part of Russia's larger hostile effort to interfere in last year's election demonstrate a vulnerability to future cyber-attacks and manipulations by foreign hackers in our democratic process. The SAVE Act would facilitate information sharing with states, provide guidelines for how best to secure election systems, and allow states to access funds to develop their own solutions to the threats posed to elections.

 

In order to ensure states can respond in real time to any potential issues or threats, the SAVE Act would require the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to sponsor security clearances to the officials responsible for the administration and certification of federal elections in each state, usually the secretaries of state. The DNI would then share all appropriate classified information with those state officials to protect election systems from security threats.

 

The SAVE Act would also permanently designate state-run election systems as critical infrastructure and require the Department of Homeland Security to work with states to develop best practices to address risks and create a federal grant program to help states upgrade the physical, electronic, and administrative components of their voting systems to defend against modern threats.

 

In a letter sent earlier this month, Senators Collins and Heinrich urged the Department of Homeland Security to bring together the expertise of the states and the financial and intelligence resources of the federal government to meet the challenge of protecting election infrastructure.

Specifically, the SAVE Act would:

  • Authorize the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to provide a security clearance to the chief state election official of each state and one designee.
  • Authorize the DNI to share appropriate classified information to the states related to threats to voting systems and the election process.
  • Designate voting systems as critical infrastructure for the purposes of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  • Authorize the development of a threat assessment by the DHS on the physical and electronic risks to voting systems, and to develop best practices to address these risks.
  • Authorize a grant program for states to upgrade their voting systems to ensure the integrity of the physical, electronic, and administrative components of the voting system based upon the threat assessment.
  • Create a "CooperativeHack the Election" program to partner with vendors to discover new threats to electronic voting systems
  • Mandate an audit by the Comptroller General to ensure that elections held using equipment using the grants have been conducted in a manner consistent with the program.

 

A copy of the bill is available here and a fact sheet is available here.