DHS on election security: We won’t violate your state’s rights

The Hill

After extending a hand to states to help boost election security last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reiterated what it can and can’t do on Friday.

“DHS assistance is strictly voluntary and does not entail regulation, binding directives, and is not offered to supersede state and local control over the process,” the agency clarified in a statement.

“The Department of Homeland Security stands ready to assist state and local election officials in protecting their systems,” the statement read. The DHS noted that it was their “cybersecurity mission” to “offer and provide assistance upon request.”

“We do this for private businesses and other entities across the spectrum of the private and public sectors. This includes the most cybersecurity sophisticated businesses in Corporate America.”

The department’s clarification comes after some states expressed reluctance about taking the DHS’s help and Georgia outright declined the DHS’s offer last month, on the grounds of protecting state sovereignty.

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler (R) also decried federal assistance, saying, “The Constitution says very vividly it’s up to the states the time, place and manner in which we conduct elections. It is a Constitutional issue.”

Security experts are more concerned with the consequences of election equipment being hacked than the risk of federal overreach.

“We have seen large organizations like Google, which has extraordinary talent and a large amount of security support being hacked,” voting security expert Barbara Simons had previously told The Hill, noting that “there have already been serious hacks on political institutions.

Simons has been an advocate for stronger voting security measures. Simons isn’t alone.

“The machines [Georgia are] using are more than a decade old, so the hardware is falling apart. And the operating system they’re using is Windows 2000, which hasn’t been updated for security for years, which means it’s a sitting duck,” Zeynep Tufekci, a University of North Carolina professor and security expert, said to NPR in August.