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