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Chairman Quigley Delivers Opening Remarks at FSGG Hearing on Election Security Vulnerabilities

Feb 27, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05), who serves as Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services & General Government (FSGG) and a Member of the House Intelligence Committee, held a hearing an FSGG hearing on remaining vulnerabilities in our country’s election infrastructure.

In the lead up to the 2016 elections, Russia conducted an influence campaign aimed at the U.S. Presidential election – including hacking state and local electoral boards, conducting cyber espionage against political organizations, and spreading misinformation and strategic messaging on social media platforms to undermine confidence in U.S. democratic procedures. The purpose of the hearing is to expose the ongoing vulnerabilities in our election system and discuss ways Congress and the federal government can help states enhance election security and protect the integrity of our democratic institutions. In FY18, Rep. Quigley secured $380 million in new grants to help states fortify and protect election systems from cyber-hacking.

Today’s witnesses include Eric Rosenbach, Co-Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School; J. Alex Haldermam, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Michigan; and Steven Sandvoss, Executive Director, Illinois State Board of Elections.

Below are Rep. Quigley’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery.

This morning we are here to discuss an issue I feel very passionate about—and hopefully others here today as well—and that’s protecting our election systems. For the past two years, I’ve done my best to sound the alarm about the vulnerabilities of our election system. 

We know that, in the lead up to the 2016 elections, the Russians targeted at least 21 state election systems. We also know, through the confirmation of all 17 intelligence agencies, that Russia successfully hacked our democratic process to encourage voters to elect President Trump. 

But it didn’t stop in 2016. The Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coates, warned us that the lights were blinking red again. And sure enough, in 2018, the intelligence community saw similar attempts by Russia and other foreign countries, including China and Iran, to influence our election process and promote their strategic interests. 

We can be sure that they intend to interfere in the 2020 Presidential election. Yet, many of the vulnerabilities that existed in 2016, continue to persist across the country. 

Our election infrastructure remains outdated, low-tech, and nowhere near where it needs to be to prevent future intrusions. In the 2018 elections, 41 states used voting machines that were over a decade old and susceptible to cyber-intrusions and system crashes. Thirteen states used voting machines that fail to produce a paper ballot or record, leaving them unable to conduct meaningful post-election audits. Thirty-four states used electronic pollbooks in at least some polling locations—including six states that used them statewide—which are vulnerable to hackers who can alter or delete voter registration data.

Some of these states are taking steps to replace their outdated systems, but they lack the necessary tools and funding. We need to give state and local election officials the tools they need to adequately defend the security of our election system.

After an eight-year gap in federal funding, the Fiscal Year 2018 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act included $380 million for grants to help states fortify and protect election systems. And we saw an overwhelming demand for assistance.  Every single state and eligible territory requested grant funding, and the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has disbursed every single dollar of the $380 million.

The EAC is still analyzing how much money the states spent in the first nine months, but based on initial plans submitted by the states, we know that states planned to spend more than one third of the grant funding on cybersecurity efforts, and more than one quarter of the funding was tagged to buy new voting equipment.

While a critical first step, it is important to emphasize that this funding was just an initial down payment. It represents only a fraction of the total need across the country to replace outdated voting equipment and implement cybersecurity and other protections at the state and local level to ensure our election system can withstand future attempts of foreign interference.

The last time our electoral process was put into question, post Bush-Gore, this government spent over $3.5 billion to upgrade our election systems—because we treasured the integrity of our democracy. I hope we still do.

I look forward to hearing from our panel of expert witnesses this morning who can help us understand the challenges and threats we face—and what steps we should be taking to address them.