Aug 4, 2020
House Hearing Transcript August 4: 2020 Election Security
On August 4, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation held a hearing about election security for the 2020 federal election. They discussed concerns about the election amid the coronavirus pandemic. Read the full transcript of the hearing here.
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Chairman Richmond: (03:55)
The Subcommittee on Cybersecurity Infrastructure, Protection and Innovation will come to order. Good morning. I want to thank the witnesses for participating in today’s hearing. We all have a stake in ensuring a safe, secure election in November. This hearing comes a week after we lay to rest a giant in the fight for voting rights. Before he died, Congressman Lewis reminded us that the vote is the most powerful, non-violent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it. We must vigorously defend our right to vote, our access to the ballot box, and the integrity of our election. In less than 90 days, Americans across the country will participate in an election unlike any other in our history. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing state and local election officials to rapidly expand vote by mail, early voting, and other crowd reducing election policies so no voter has to choose between their democratic rights and their health.
Chairman Richmond: (05:07)
As states scramble to administer safe primary elections, this spring, seemingly administrative decisions related to the number and location of polling sites had substantive impacts on people’s right to vote. Long lines and crowded polling locations in predominantly black and brown neighborhood raised the stress levels in communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and police violence that underscored that existence of systematic racism as an injustice that we must still overcome, and we have a president who has repeatedly tried to manipulate news cycle, going so far as to falsely suggest he can move the election date and more insidiously making baseless claims about the security of vote by mail. This behavior, in service to his own narcissistic, political ends, softens the turf for dangerous foreign influence campaigns and puts Americans who want to exercise the franchise at risk.
Chairman Richmond: (06:11)
For the record, the president does not have the power to move the date of the election from November. Moreover, last Friday, the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency released a risk assessment of vote by mail. CISA concluded that while there are risks associated with mail-in voting, just as with every other method of voting, those risks can be mitigated. Further, I am not aware of any intelligence assessment indicating that foreign actors have expressed interest or capability to successfully interfere with vote by mail processes. We must learn the lessons of our recent elections and do better in November.
Chairman Richmond: (06:55)
First, we must prepare Americans for the reality that elections will be administered differently this fall. We must educate voters about vote by mail, it’s related deadlines, and how expanded vote by mail might affect the timing of election results. We must encourage participation in vote by mail while inoculating the public from disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining confidence in election results. Second, we must ensure that changes to the USPS Service standards do not jeopardize vote by mail in that the election officials seeking to expand vote by mail coordinate with the Postal Service to coordinate vote by mail policies and deadlines. Third, we must ensure election officials do not use COVID-19 as a pretext for making administrative decisions that could disenfranchise voters. Time and time again, the impacts of dysfunctional and chaotic election administration falls hardest on black and brown communities. Election officials must be deliberate in their efforts to ensure that no community is disenfranchised. Fourth, we must not forget the lessons of 2016. It was around this time in 2016 when the Russian foreign interference campaign engaged in a hack and dump operations against one candidate and targeted election systems in all 50 states. We must continue to improve the election, the security of election infrastructure, and campaign organizations and improve the public resilience to foreign influence campaigns.
Chairman Richmond: (08:35)
Finally, we need to be honest with ourselves about what it will take to administer safe, secure and auditable elections this fall. It has been over 10 weeks since the House passed the HEROES Act which would have provided $3.6 billion in funding to support state and local elections [inaudible 00:08:54]. Despite urgent requests for additional resources from state and local election officials across the country, the Senate never voted on the HEROES Act, nor did it include any election administration funding in the COVID response package it released last week. As the House and Senate negotiations on COVID relief package continue, I urge my Senate colleagues to step up and provide state and local election officials the funding they need to administer safe, secure and auditable elections this November. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today, their recommendations for Congress on ways to give Americans more opportunities to vote this November, and to ensure the safety and integrity of the election. I ask unanimous content that Ms. Demings of Florida and Mr. Green of Texas be permitted to participate in today’s hearing. Without objection. With that, I would like to recognize the ranking member of the subcommittee Mr. Katko of New York for any opening statements he may have.
Mr. Katko: (10:01)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I want to echo your sentiments at the outset about John Lewis. He truly was a giant in American politics and American leadership and I considered him a friend and his legacy will live on long after his passing, that’s for sure. I want to thank the [inaudible 00:10:17] staffer accommodating the schedule today, I have another example of how bad 2020 is, our best friend’s son is being laid to rest this morning and so it’s another awful example of this awful year. I want to thank Chairman Richmond for holding this important hearing. Election security is something that I am very concerned about and been working to hard to ensure that all Americans are able to vote securely and have their vote counted. Although we have made significant progress since 2016, election security remains a major concern of mine. Secure voting systems and accurate reporting of votes are fundamental to our democracy. Americans should have full confidence in every aspect of our election process. I want to applaud election security efforts by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, better known as CISA, and its partnerships with state, local, territorial and tribal governments that have resulted in a marked improvement of election security over 2016. CISA provides state and local officials with technical assistance, playbooks and exercises, shares information on threats and assists with responding to cyber incidents. The pandemic has injected new elements of uncertainty into the 2020 elections that have forced many local election officials to reinvent the process by which citizens vote. These changes will keep citizens and poll workers safe while maintaining citizens’ faith in the process. In March, Congress provided $400 million in new Help America Vote Act or HAVA funds to states to prepare for and conduct the 2020 election. During the pandemic, aided by this infusion of funding, state and local election officials are adjusting to huge increases in voting by mail and a consolidation of voting locations. CISA is also working with state and local election officials to head off disinformation campaigns engineered by adversaries. A key component of this strategy is countering the opportunity for adversaries to spread disinformation on remote voting procedures and changes in polling locations.
Mr. Katko: (12:23)
CISA has assisted state and local officials with methods to drive voters to reliable sources of information and how to communicate changes to election procedures, polling locations, and times. Election security for 2020 has also improved as a result of the growing participation in the election infrastructure ISAC by state and local officials. The election ISAC has provided thousands of election offices with the cyber resources they need to maintain the reliability of their election infrastructure including best practices, tools, training, and perhaps most important information sharing and analysis. However, many election offices don’t have the IT knowledge or resources necessary to take advantage of this information. Some of them feel deluged with information that they simply cannot sift through or handle from the [inaudible 00:13:13]. These local election offices are not equipped to handle these cyber threats through their election infrastructure alone. This is why introduced my cyber navigators bill which authorizes grants for state and local governments that hire cybersecurity experts to provide risk management, resiliency, and technical support in the administrative of elections. My bill enables a state to hire a cybersecurity expert familiar with the state’s unique election systems, the regional nature of the assistance ensures that those navigators are able to establish relationships with the regional and state election officials.
Mr. Katko: (13:46)
By targeting the assistance at the administrative of elections, state election officials aren’t forced to compete with other state priorities. Election security has a history of bipartisan cooperation and support, ensuring that our election process is uncompromised during the upcoming election must remain a top priority for both sides of the aisle. Together, I look forward to continuing to work towards the goal with my colleagues on this subcommittee. I thank the witnesses for providing the subcommittee with their testimony, and I look forward to hearing their ideas on how we can further improve the security of our election systems. In that Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Chairman Richmond: (14:22)
The gentleman from New York yields back, Mr. Katko, we will all be saying prayers for you as you attend the funeral, I want to thank you for your attendance.
Mr. Katko: (14:32)
Thank you. Say a lot of prayers. I got to deliver the eulogy and it’s going to be a tough one, so thank you Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Richmond: (14:37)
Thank you. Members are reminded that the subcommittee will operate according to the guidelines laid out by the chairman and ranking member in their July 8 colloquy. With that, I ask unanimous consent to waive committee Rule 882 for the subcommittee during remote proceedings under the covered period designated by the speaker under House Resolution 965. Without objection, so ordered. The chair now recognizes the chairman of the full committee, the gentleman from Mississippi, Mr. Thompson, for an opening statement. Maybe we don’t. Do we have Mr. Thompson here? The chair will now … We will go on to the ranking member of the full committee and then we’ll come back to the chairman, so now the chair recognizes the ranking member of the full committee, the gentleman from Alabama Mr. Rogers for an opening statement and Mr. Rogers is not here, so let’s do this. Let’s go straight to our amazing witnesses.
Chairman Richmond: (15:48)
So I will now welcome our panel of witnesses. First I would like to welcome David Levine, an elections integrity fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Mr. Levine previously served in a range of positions administering and observing elections and advocating for election reform, including as the Ada County Idaho Elections Director and as the Director of Elections for the City of Richmond, Virginia. Next, Ms. Sylvia Albert, the director of voting and elections in Common Cause. Ms. Albert brings more than a decade of professional experience in public interest law and public policy campaigns expanding ballot access, reducing barriers to participation, and combating voter intimidation among historically disenfranchised communities.
Chairman Richmond: (16:44)
Next, we’ll here from Ms. Amber McReynolds, the CEO for the National Vote at Home Institute and Coalition. She is the former director of elections for Denver, Colorado and serves on the National Election Taskforce on Election Crises. As a former election official in a state with universal vote by mail, I look forward to hearing her unique perspective on that topic. Finally, we have Mr. John Gilligan, the president and CEO of the Center for Internet Security, or CIS. Together with Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center, [inaudible 00:17:26], provides many resources to support the cybersecurity needs of the election community. I appreciate you all joining us today. Without objection, the witnesses’ full statements will be inserted for the record. I now ask each witness to summarize his or her statement for five minutes, beginning with Mr. Levine.
David Levine: (17:51)
Chairman Richmond, Ranking Member Katko, and members of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation, good morning and thank you for the opportunity to testify today on protecting the integrity of the 2020 elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. My name is David Levine and I am the elections integrity fellow for the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan trans-Atlantic initiative housed within the German Marshall Fund of the United States. ASD develops comprehensive strategies to deter and defend against authoritarian efforts to undermine and interfere in democratic institutions. The 2020 primary election season has been unique with a global pandemic, nationwide protests, and an ongoing threat of foreign interference. My testimony today focuses on six steps that can be taken now to help ensure that the 2020 election is safe, secure and fair.
David Levine: (18:47)
State and local election officials, with help from their partners, must continually evaluate their election infrastructure to ensure it is as secure as possible, testing and auditing existing systems is essential. At a recent meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Matt Masterson, an advisor with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, told state officials that DHS testing of state and local election systems had found a number of concerning vulnerabilities. These included 1) sharing passwords and other credentials in using default passwords commonly known to outsiders and 2) continuing to fall for phishing attacks that allow hackers to install malware including ransomware that could paralyze election day operations. As Masterson noted, the good news is that many of these issues can be easily fixed by Election Day. The bad news is that many local election offices are unable to make these fixes quickly because they lack the necessary resources or IT support. The coronavirus has exacerbated the problem by forcing a number of states to divert election security funding to cover other unanticipated costs stemming from the pandemic.
David Levine: (19:58)
As the election infrastructure is modified to account for the coronavirus or other intervening events, security and resiliency measures must be part of the design and not introduced after the fact. In its June 2 primary election, the Washington D.C. Board of Elections, inundated with complaints from voters who did not receive absentee ballots in the mail, decided as a last resort to allow a number of domestic voters to submit their ballots by email so that their votes could be cast and counted. While the effort was well-intentioned, it put election results at risk because there is no way either for those voters to verify that their votes were recorded accurately or to ensure that those votes were not altered in transmission by bad actors, and even if there is no actual interference with email ballots, allowing them provides fodder to foreign adversaries who could use such actions to sow doubt and confusion about the legitimacy of our elections.
David Levine: (20:54)
We need to ensure that our elections are run as smoothly as possible so that mis and disinformation is less likely to be effective. If our general election is plagued by significant problems, inaccurate information is more likely to find a receptive audience as we have seen with Russia and Iran already. Regardless of how secure our elections are, experts and officials are concerned that some voters could dismiss November’s results as invalid or rigged because of mis and or disinformation. Voters could argue for example that the much longer than usual time required to count an anticipated surge in mail-in ballots is direct evidence of nefarious conduct. We must seek to flood the information space with credible, consistent election information so that voters are immunized against falsehoods. This will admittedly be challenging in light of the coronavirus and the constant change it has required, but it is doable, particularly if federal authorities can provide state and local election officials additional funding to publicize and explain changes to their election processes. It is essential that partisan politics be kept out of election administration to build confidence in the integrity of the election process and this should happen long before Election Day. For example, Kentucky had a relatively smooth primary election in part due to a bipartisan agreement reached well in advance of the election between a Democratic governor and the Republican secretary of state. They took a number of joint steps to help the state prepare for its primary, including allowing for unprecedented expansion of absentee voting and allowing in-person absentee voting which is effectively early voting. Election officials finally must also have sufficient resources to plan for reasonably foreseeable contingencies, offering a robust voting by mail, early voting, and Election Day options to minimize confusion and risk are optimal, but many jurisdictions don’t currently have the resources and/or personnel to offer all of these approaches. Additional resources from federal authorities would help enormously with administering and securing the election, but time is of the essence.
David Levine: (23:07)
The late Congressman John Lewis once said your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have to create a more perfect union. I urge Congress to do everything possible to ensure that every person who wants to exercise their right to vote can do so. Thank you.
Chairman Richmond: (23:40)
Thank you Mr. Levine. We now recognize Ms. Albert to summarize her statement for five minutes.
Sylvia Albert: (23:46)
Good morning. Thank you Chairman Richmond for inviting me to testify today. Thank you Chairman Richmond, Ranking Member Katko and all members of this subcommittee for holding this critically important hearing. My name is Sylvia Albert and I am the director of voting and elections at Common Cause, a national non-partisan watchdog organization with 1.2 million supporters and more than 25 state chapters. For nearly 50 years, Common Cause has been holding power accountable, lobbying, litigation and grassroots organizing. Common Cause fights to get big money out of politics, enhanced voting rights, foster an open, free and accountable media, and [inaudible 00:24:24] to make government more responsive to the people [inaudible 00:24:30].
Sylvia Albert: (24:31)
The COVID- 19 pandemic was an unprecedented challenge to our democracy. We have long known that our decentralized voting systems mean that voters have vastly different voting experiences depending on where they live. While the rules vary, there is one thing that is uniform, there was no such thing as a perfect election. Longstanding disparity, including long lines, polling place closures, and ballot rejection rates particularly in black and brown communities are now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The chasm between those
Ms. Albert: (25:03)
By the COVID-19 pandemic. The chasm between those with access to the ballot, and those with significant barriers for that access is growing larger. Voters of color, young voters, and first time voters are on the losing end. Without proper funding, the problems from the previous elections are going to be just the tip of the iceberg this November. While only a small percentage of the electorate participates in primaries, the 2020 primary season is a preview of the problems to come. There’s no single solution to ensure a safe and secure election.
Ms. Albert: (25:33)
However, by understanding the compounding issue, we can work to eliminate the barriers where there’s space. I want to highlight some of these issues, but for more detail, please see my written testimony. In nearly every state that voted with the pandemic, we saw a dramatic increase in the use of mail-in ballots. One common issue was the ballots were mailed too late and some voters did not receive them at all. In many states, the infrastructure to process requests and produce ballots could not handle the huge increase. Expecting voters to vote by mail, election officials over consolidated polling locations.
Ms. Albert: (26:08)
When they were unable to fulfill the request for absentee ballots, voters were forced to vote in person at a small number of polling locations that were therefore overrun. For example, Pennsylvania’s two most populous counties, Philadelphia and Allegheny shifted for more than 2,100 polling places to fewer than 500 resulting in confusion and long lines. In addition, the polling places chosen for consolidation were not done equitably or with regard to the disparities in mail-in ballot applications. In addition, voting machine failures led to disenfranchisement.
Ms. Albert: (26:39)
Problems were particularly widespread in Georgia, ranging from machines not working to polling locations not having enough machines. When machines go down, there was not enough paper ballots available to meet the demand. As a result, voters had no choice but to wait in line or not vote. To be clear with the correct implementation of resources, running an election that gives voters safe and secure options to vote by mail and in person is possible. The time is running out. Certain election officials have long tried to make voting more difficult for black and brown communities.
Ms. Albert: (27:11)
The impacts of these efforts are greatly exacerbated in a global pandemic. However, there are solutions that create systemic change. Most importantly is going to take significantly more resources for states to run effective elections in the COVID-19 environment. To address each of the problems [inaudible 00:27:28] states need not only to adopt good policy, but also to have the funds necessary to execute those policies. One study estimates this cost to be $4 billion. Senate Republicans must follow the House’s lead and allocate $3.6 billion in the election funding.
Ms. Albert: (27:44)
Second, even prior to the pandemic, 70% of election officials reported that it was difficult to staff polling locations. In addition, many traditional polling locations are no longer available. Members of Congress could help recruit poll workers and find new polling locations by putting out requests on social media, doing PSAs, and using their extensive network to encourage this important civic engagement. Third, HR 1 includes many strong protections for voters, including the Voter Empowerment Act, which Congressman Lewis long championed.
Ms. Albert: (28:13)
We appreciate Chairman Richmond cosponsoring and voting for HR 1 when it passed the House in March 2019, and we continue to strongly urge Senator McConnell to bring it up for vote in the Senate. Finally, as we approach the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, I can’t think of a better way to honor the life of Congressman John Lewis than having the Senate follow the House’s lead and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Voters should not be forced to choose between their health and their right to vote. With the election less than three months away, we need Congress to act now.
Ms. Albert: (28:43)
In order to ensure the 2020 elections are safe, secure, accessible and fair, Congress must invest so states and localities implement critical voting system changes [inaudible 00:03:53]. Thank you.
Chairman Richmond: (29:02)
Thank you, Ms. Albert, for your testimony. I now recognize Ms. McReynolds to summarize her statement for five minutes.
Ms. McReynolds: (29:11)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members and staff. Thank you for inviting me to provide testimony about the resiliency and readiness of our election systems during this unprecedented public health crisis. The pandemic has upended all aspects of our lives and the voting process is no different. Simply put, our democracy is essential and we must do everything we can to ensure our election system is ready, resilient and secure. And let me be very clear, election officials are working each and every day to make this happen, even in extraordinary and extremely challenging circumstances and often with one hand tied behind their backs due to outdated laws and a lack of funding and resources.
Ms. McReynolds: (29:57)
Extraordinary long lines or other challenging circumstances that voters often face even prior to this year are usually the most visible symptoms of a policy or resource problems. Election officials have responded to difficult circumstances with little support and will attempt to do so again this year, but this year is unprecedented. They need support from elected leaders that have the power to help. They are on the front lines delivering democracy to all voters in small towns and in metro areas across the United States. And it is only right that policy makers not only at the federal level, but also at the state level respond to their needs.
Ms. McReynolds: (30:39)
Extraordinary challenges call for extraordinary solutions. What is clear to me during this pandemic and other challenges we have faced as a nation is that Americans are resilient and we need a voting process that is proven resilient from a pandemic, from unfairness, from barriers, from foreign adversaries, from administrative deficiencies and from outdated policies that create challenges. We need a system that can withstand all of those issues. The fact is the pandemic has exposed challenges in most states’ historical reliances on in-person voting on one single day that requires a large number of people and resources to manage.
Ms. McReynolds: (31:19)
In too many primary states this year, the closure of polling places, poll worker shortages, long lines, insufficient training and voters reluctance to enter crowded environments along with surges, unprecedented surges and absentee ballot requests that went unfilled due to the administrative burdens to process left many voters unable to safely exercise their fundamental right to vote. It is our elected leaders responsibility to ensure that our democracy functions and that all voters have access to participate. Enabling voting at home options is one way to solve the challenges election officials and by extension voters face during this pandemic.
Ms. McReynolds: (32:02)
Voting by mail is proven, time tested and secure, and it dates all the way back to the Civil War. The mail ballot model as designed puts voters first and has proven to be resilient during both natural disasters and the current pandemic. It is possible to improve the voting experience, streamline administrative processes, enhance security all while conserving valuable resources, increasing turnout and increasing trust in government. Voters have been voting this way at home safely and securely for decades in many states from Utah to Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, now Washington, DC, Vermont, and now Nevada after this weekend.
Ms. McReynolds: (32:46)
Policymakers have acted to ensure voters have a clear range of options to vote safely and securely because no one should have to choose between voting and protecting their health. Now, what does this process look like? In eight states plus DC as of August of this year, just recently Nevada passed, voters will be mailed a ballot in advance of the election and have multiple options to return that ballot. In the rest of the states, voters can request a ballot to be mailed to them. A small number of those states still require an excuse to be provided with the ballot request and even fewer still limit options based on the voters’ age.
Ms. McReynolds: (33:26)
But every single state offers an option to vote at home. Whether you call it absentee, vote by mail, mail-in ballots, it means that a ballot is being sent to the voter by mail. The voter completes the ballot and the ballot is returned. And this method of voting has been proven to be safe and secure and it includes strong safety measures to ensure the authenticity of the ballots. And in some states, this includes ballot tracking from the day the ballots are mailed all the way through when they are processed.
Ms. McReynolds: (33:59)
Now as a couple of notable considerations and as you mentioned, the SISA report, the SISA report that was released on Friday that talked about the importance of securing vote by mail systems noted that disinformation risk to mail-in voting infrastructure and processes is similar to that of in-person voting while utilizing different content. Threat actors may leverage limited understanding regarding mail-in voting to mislead and confuse the public. This includes casting doubt without evidence about the mail ballot process, thus combating disinformation and misinformation is a critical aspect of elections officials work to secure the election.
Ms. McReynolds: (34:43)
Expanding vote at home options is nonpartisan and supported by leaders on both sides of the aisle. A second notable consideration is the recent changes to the USPS processes and delivery timelines that will have a significant impact on our election process regardless of the voting method. Mail ballots are just one piece of how the post office supports election infrastructure. Federal and state laws have legal mandates with regards to sending voter registration information, valid issue notices, election information, poll worker appointment letters, polling place notification cards, signature cards, address update notifications and other required mailings.
Ms. McReynolds: (35:26)
All of these legally required mailings are at risk if the post office is not able to process mail effectively or experiences delays. Some states have also not updated their laws with regards to processing, ensuring adequate time to process ballots. These states include Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New York, Maryland, and Alabama and others. This is exactly why we’ve seen delays in election results because election officials don’t have adequate time to process ballots in advance of election day. As with every part of our election system, we must be able to deter, detect and hold accountable any bad actor who tries to interfere with our election process.
Ms. McReynolds: (36:08)
While voter fraud is exceedingly rare in elections regardless of voting method, it is critical for election officials to detect malicious activity and for voters to report suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities. Our democracy functions when every eligible voter is able to exercise their right to vote. Voters have already chosen to vote at home in record numbers in the primaries, and they will continue to do so. Our democracy is essential and we need to be sure that our systems are secure from any interference and any misinformation and disinformation as noted in the SISA report on Friday.
Ms. McReynolds: (36:49)
No election system is perfect and this is why it’s critical to continually review and improve systems by enhancing security access transparency particularly in this unprecedented time. An example of a necessary improvement is the implementation of ballot tracking systems that many States are working on right now. Another example is advanced auditing techniques, such as risk limiting audits. And we cannot settle for when this moment and this unprecedented crisis calls us to do better. Democracy is the shared DNA of our nation, to our people, to our communities.
Ms. McReynolds: (37:26)
We must do everything we can to ensure that the elections are secure. Going into November election administration must be about who votes, not who wins. You have the authority to create a path for the American people and for the American democratic method that voters of all stripes can be confident in. Let’s do that together. Thank you.
Chairman Richmond: (37:48)
Thank you for your testimony and finally I recognize Mr. Gilligan [Inaudible 00:00:37:52].
John Gilligan: (37:56)
Chairman Richmond, ranking member [inaudible 00:37:58] and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the invitation to appear before this important committee. My name is John Gilligan. I’m the chief executive officer of the nonprofit Center for Internet Security or CIS. For the past 10 years, CIS has had the privilege of operating the multi-state information, sharing and analysis center cyber threat and best practice sharing organization consisting of nearly 10,000 state, local, tribal and territorial government organizations. In 2018, CIS was asked to establish a parallel organization focused on US elections organizations.
John Gilligan: (38:36)
The Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center, or EI-ISAC, is now fully operational and has more than 2,600 state and local organizations as members. Today, I will share my views about the progress that has been made in protecting our nation’s elections infrastructure from cyber threats. In the summer of 2016 and into 2017, many elections jurisdictions had immature technology, security capabilities, limited cybersecurity awareness and education and insufficient collaboration among key stakeholders at the federal, state and local levels.
John Gilligan: (39:13)
In early 2018 DHS, the Elections Assistance Commission or EAC and the state and local elections officials came together to jointly take on a series of actions to improve the security of our elections infrastructure. The formation of the EI-ISAC was one of these actions. In addition to the cybersecurity activities that state local elections officials undertake on their own, today the technical protections deployed across the elections infrastructure have significantly improved since 2018. I will highlight three of these technologies comprising a layered cyber defense approach each funded at least inquired through congressional appropriation.
John Gilligan: (39:53)
First is the deployment of the Albert network monitoring sensors at every state level elections organization and a total of 270 Albert network monitoring devices deployed to local elections officers. Second, an endpoint detection and response program with the deployment of cyber sensors for individual systems in the elections infrastructure. Thousands of these sensors are being deployed as we speak. Third, a capability called malicious domain blocking and reporting that prevents elections offices’ computers from connecting to known malicious sites. In the area of cyber awareness and education, a set of broad initiatives has enhanced elections officials understanding of cyber attacks and what they should do to assess their organization’s cyber readiness. Conferences, webinars, tabletop exercises, state sponsored cyber education events, educational materials, and situational updates from the EI-ISAC as well as online courses sponsored by DHS’ SISA organization, the EAC and third party organizations have resulted in a dramatic improvement in the cybersecurity awareness of elections officials.
John Gilligan: (41:04)
In addition to federally funded activities, CIS continues to invest our own funds and seeks private grant support to develop best practice guidance and tools for elections officials. While elections officials are not cybersecurity experts, they now better understand the nature of cyber threats, the available technical solutions and what to do in response to a cyber event. Finally, with regard to the critical area of collaboration, the working relationships and partnerships among federal state and local organizations have shown a remarkable maturation.
John Gilligan: (41:41)
SISA, the EI-ISAC, associations representing the secretaries of state or NASS, state elections directors or NASS ED, local elections officials, IGO, the EAC and the election center as well as elections vendors and other private and public organizations have been working collaboratively with elections offices for the past several years to improve the offices, cyber security posture, and relationships continue to improve. Simply put, compared to 2016 and 2018, the security of the elections infrastructure looks quite different in 2020.
John Gilligan: (42:15)
While there are no guarantees in cyber security, I can assure you that the security defenses that we have in place for November 2020 are vastly improved over those in place a short four years ago. Congress, the elections officials, SISA and a host of public and private organizations should be rightfully proud of the progress that has been made in this area. I close by respectfully recommending that Congress continue to emphasize the importance of collaboration and cyber technology innovation. I also encourage you to focus on the attention on this and disinformation in American elections, a major vulnerability for November and beyond.
John Gilligan: (42:54)
In this last area, CIS has developed a misinformation reporting portal for elections officials in order to simplify reporting of elections related mis- and disinformation. We piloted the system with elections officials in five states and have engaged with DHS, NASS and NASS ED to promote this capability to social media platform. We believe that this capability will be a valuable tool in increasing visibility of elections related mis- and disinformation. This concludes my oral remarks. I look forward to your questions.
Chairman Richmond: (43:27)
Thank you. And I want to thank all the witnesses for their testimony. I see that we have been joined by the chairman of the full committee. I will recognize the gentleman from Mississippi, Mr. Thompson, for his opening statement.
Mr. Thompson: (43:41)
Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that opportunity to speak. As you know, we are less than 100 days away from the election and House Democrats are working hard to persuade Senate leadership to provide additional election assistance to help states administer safe, secure, and auditable elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. This hearing could not come at a more appropriate time. Last week, we celebrated the life of Congressman John Lewis. As we mourn our loss, we grapple with a tremendous task of how best to honor his legacy.
Mr. Thompson: (44:23)
In the final days, Congressman Lewis committed a lifetime of fighting for justice to parting advice to guide us through this turbulent time. He challenged us to stand up for injustice. He called each of us to use our talents to build a better country than the one we inherited. And we reminded that democracy is not a state, it’s an act. This November, our nation will participate in an election that will look like no other in our history. The COVID-19 pandemic will demand that we adopt our voting procedures to ensure that no American must choose between exercising their democratic right to vote and protecting their health.
Mr. Thompson: (45:07)
At the same time, we must defend our democracy against adversaries who will use our differences of opinion to sow irreparable division among us. We must remain vigilant in defending the truth and keep the public informed to deny our adversaries the opportunity to fi.l information vacuum with lies. Now more than ever, we each have a role to play in defending our democracy. As chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I fought to protect the voting rights of all Americans and to secure funding to help state and local election officials replace outdated, unsecure election equipment.
Mr. Thompson: (45:49)
Last March, the House passed HR 1, which included the Election Security Act, which would provide funding to states to improve election security and direct the whole of government response to counter foreign influence campaigns aimed at undermining confidence in our democratic institutions. On May 15th, the House passed the Heroes Act which would provide $3.6 billion to help states navigate the challenges associated with administering November elections during COVID-19 pandemic. That is in addition to the 800 million already made available this year.
Mr. Thompson: (46:31)
Both bills are languishing in the Senate. The recent COVID-19 relief package proposed by the Senate majority provides no resources to help states to defray of cost of administering federal elections. As my Senate colleagues post their attributes to Congressman Lewis, I call on them to remember the cause that was so dear to him, access to the ballot box and fight to include necessarily voting reforms and funding to implement them in the next COVID-19 package. Our state officials must adopt by changing outdated voting rules that prohibit no excuse absentee voting and early voting, both of which would reduce lines and crowding making it safe to vote.
Mr. Thompson: (47:18)
The public also has a role to play. They must seek out reliable sources of accurate information and engage in the election process. The integrity of the November elections depends on a whole of nation commitment to our democracy. I look forward to our conversation today on that effort and I yield back the balance of my time.
Chairman Richmond: (47:44)
Thank the chairman for his opening statement. I will remind is our committee that we will each have five minutes to question the panel. I will now recognize myself for questions. My first question will be to all witnesses. As you know, the president and attorney general, who I had an opportunity to question last week, have repeatedly tried to cast mail-in voting as fraudulent, illegal or tantamount to rigging an election. On Friday, however, SISA released a mail-in voting in 2020 infrastructure risk assessment, which considered a number of risks to vote by mail, but ultimately found that ” all forms of voting, in this case mailing voting, brings a variety of cyber and infrastructure risks. Risks to mail and voting can be managed through various policies, procedures, and protocols and controls.”
Chairman Richmond: (48:46)
One, what were your takeaways from the risk assessment? And two, is there more that SISA or other federal agencies can be doing to promote confidence and safe secure mail-in voting this November? Any order. Mr. Levine, I see that you’re ready.
Mr. Levine: (49:12)
Sure. Chairman, thank you for that question. In terms of the takeaways, the SISA report, I think, was a really important document and I think it really showed a blueprint for the kinds of things security-wise that folks ought to consider when they are administering an election via vote by mail. Facts matter and this document is littered with facts that unambiguously state that vote by mail is a safe and secure process, but it does also walk through some really important pieces that I think are worth mentioning. Number one, some of the factors to consider with vote by mail are a bit different.
Mr. Levine: (49:56)
It is worth noting that in terms of doing vote by mail, if the voter registration database is not-
Speaker 1: (50:03)
If the voter registration database is not as accurate, your ability after the fact, to go show up at a polling place and cast the ballot, takes on a different kind of thing, then if in fact, you’re able to go to a polling place on election day. I think the second thing that’s really worth noting though, it was pointed out in this report, is also the notion that if people spread miss and disinformation about the vote by mail process, if they say that the process is easily rigged, that’s the kind of thing that can be easily amplified by foreign adversaries. And in my testimony, I pointed out authoritarian actors like Russia and Iran, have already done that. And so, I think what’s really important in terms of the takeaways are number one, people take a look at this report so that they can understand what things they need to do to make sure they can utilize vote by mail in a successful manner as possible.
Speaker 1: (50:56)
And two, I think they need to make sure that they understand how that vote by mail process works, so that they can be disseminating information to the public about how that needs to be done. And in terms of the federal authorities, I think one of the things that they can continue to do, which they’ve already done, is be reaching out in their affirmative manner, to state and local election officials, as well as civil society organizations, to talk them through how they can best communicate with the American public about how the vote by mail process can be done, so that voters can have confidence, that even though voting will be different in November than previously, it is still going to be a safe and secure process.
Mr. Richmond: (51:38)
Anyone else want to join in on that answer? Ms. [inaudible 00:01:42], Mr. Gilligan.
Speaker 2: (51:44)
Sure. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So as previously stated, I was an elections official in Colorado, ran elections for 13 years, ran three different presidential elections, along with many others and also transitioned various systems from in-person polling places, to early voting, to vote centers, to the system in Colorado. And the fact is there’s not a single state that is all vote by mail or universal vote by mail, even though those terms get used a lot. The states that do this mail ballot and still preserve in person voting options, should voters want to do that, so you really have all choices on the table. But I was struck in the sister report that came out, I think it included many of the best practices that my organization has recommended, but also that many states have actually adopted in recent years with regards to the vote by mail program.
Speaker 2: (52:39)
And what struck me in the CISA guidance also was the highlight for disinformation and misinformation as being a critical risk to our election systems. And that’s true for in-person voting, it’s true for early voting and it’s true for the vote by mail program. And so whatever we can do to combat that is critically important, we have to boost and make sure our election officials and our official state websites and local websites have and contain the best information so that voters know what to do. But one other security risk or actually two other security risks that I want to highlight, is postal operations.
Speaker 2: (53:20)
I’ve mentioned this in my testimony, I think it absolutely is a critical factor here. It is critical infrastructure to not only the vote by mail program, but elections overall, especially given all of the notices required, legal notices that are not only at the federal level, but also at the state level, in terms of making the election run, not just mail ballots, but voter notifications, ballot issue notices, polling place notices, all of those pieces of mail that go out through the infrastructure that is literally the only entity that serves every single customer and citizen daily, along with every election office. The United States Post Office is literally the only entity that provides that kind of service to every American and every election office daily.
Speaker 2: (54:11)
And we need it to be operating at full capacity. We need it to be doing what it’s capable of doing to support our elections, not just mail voting, but every aspect of our election process that relies on the post office to do it. The final piece I would say is that after administering elections for as long as I did, I would encourage everyone to rely on experts that have actually run these election processes, know where the vulnerabilities are, know how to fix those vulnerabilities, know how to address issues and there’s a reason best practices have been developed over time in various states that have done this well. And we didn’t have that 10 years ago, we didn’t have many examples of states where this procedure has operated at a very good level. Many of those states, including Colorado, where I’m from, was deemed the safest place to vote in the country a couple of years ago, by the Homeland Security secretary.
Speaker 2: (55:11)
And that’s an important and critical aspect of all the different steps we did to make our system secure and make it work properly. The one final thing I would say is I also believe it’s a security risk when people can’t access the voting process. And if you show up and there’s a five hour line or your mail ballot doesn’t come to you, or you face other barriers or challenges, that is also a security problem with the election infrastructure. And so we really need to be focused on building our processes this year and responding to all of those critical factors that prevent or inhibit the voting process from being fair for everyone.
Mr. Richmond: (55:52)
Thank you. I will yield back. I will now recognize the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Joyce, for five minutes.
Mr. Joyce: (56:00)
Thank you very much, Mr. Richmond, for holding this hearing. There could not be a more important time as we face election 2020 in the midst of a pandemic. I think that there are many questions, but Mr. Gilligan I’m going to start with you. Do you feel that election officials are receiving enough information from their election system and vendors about the vulnerabilities in their systems, so that they can make sound purchase [inaudible 00:56:29] decisions.
Mr. Gilligan: (56:33)
Thank you, Congressman Joyce for the question. I think the elections officials are getting more information today than they have in the past, about what are potential vulnerabilities. I think in years past, the elections vendors didn’t spend as much energy on looking at the types of cyber threats that we now know exist. And so there has been a significant sea change within the elections vendors. The dilemma is, as you well know, is that many of the elections components are years old. And so there has been increased dialogue between the elections vendors and the elections offices. There have been independent assessments of the elections infrastructure components to determine what vulnerabilities exist and that has resulted in some improvements in the software and the capabilities of the deployed election systems. And then I think finally, the newer elections infrastructure components tend to be ones that have better defenses against cyber threats.
Mr. Joyce: (57:45)
Do you find that individual states are actually reaching out and increasing those protective mechanisms, particularly helping their election systems set up the firewalls that are necessary to decrease those vulnerabilities?
Mr. Gilligan: (58:03)
Yeah, so thank you. The previous question focused on what the relationship between the elections vendors and the elections office is. What I would say is there’s probably been a lot more progress in the area that your current question addresses, which is, the elections offices themselves, the contractors supporting them, many elections offices have gone through a cyber navigator type concept where they either internally or externally have hired individuals to come in and not only do training, but also to do assessments of the elections infrastructure components. CIS has actually produced some guidebooks and some tools in this area.
Mr. Gilligan: (58:45)
So that is an area that I think we have seen in many states, that there has been a very concerted effort. There has been an effort to assess and then to fix. So for example, two factor authentication, which was not something that was popular in place, in years past, is now increasingly in place. Now, what that does is it makes it far more difficult for a cyber threat actor to be able to gain access to an elections component. Redesigning of systems, you mentioned firewalls, redesigning of systems to strengthen things like firewalls, to put virtual barriers, to go into virtualization that puts barriers between the elections components and other elements that might be on the network. So all of these types of improvements, there has been, in my assessment, a fairly dramatic shift and resulting in, I think, a much more resilient elections infrastructure.
Mr. Joyce: (59:46)
I share that enthusiasm. I think there has been a shift. But let’s look at it conversely. What’s the worst case scenario, in your mind, that could occur?
Mr. Gilligan: (59:59)
Well, I actually think that to some extent, we saw the worst case scenario in 2016. And let me explain what I mean by that. I think the actual vote capture and vote tally systems, which is where the actual vote is captured and then it is counted, those systems tend to be highly resilient and they’re not easily accessible. You almost have to get physical access to them, which makes the threat, to execute the threat, fairly difficult. Other elements, many other elements of the elections infrastructure are accessible through the network and therefore they share the types of vulnerabilities that we see in all network connected systems. But back to 2016, I recall vividly, discussions with elections officials in the aftermath of 2016 and their question and comment was, “Well, wait a minute, no votes were changed.” And in their mind, that was their objective, is to ensure that the vote was passed, was in fact counted properly.
Mr. Gilligan: (01:01:04)
But as we all know, it wasn’t just that the vote was cast and counted properly, it’s what’s the confidence level that the American public has in the system. And therefore an attack against the voter registration system, which did not result in anyone not being able to vote or any changes to votes, became a symbol to our American public, that there’s something going on here and therefore I’m losing confidence. So I believe that the biggest challenge that we continue to have in to 2020 is to, and I think some of the other speakers commented on it, is to be able to ensure that the American public has clear information about what is being done to protect the systems and if there is any particular [inaudible 01:01:53] to be able to very clearly identify what’s the impact and that there have been lots of procedures put in place, that if there is a small glitch, that will not impact the counting of the vote or their ability to cast the vote.
Mr. Joyce: (01:02:08)
Thank you very much for your answer. Chairman Richmond, thank you again for holding this important viewing today. My time has expired, I yield.
Mr. Richmond: (01:02:18)
The gentleman from Pennsylvania has yielded back. I now recognize the chairman of the full committee, the gentleman from Mississippi, Mr. Thompson.
Mr. Thompson: (01:02:28)
Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. This hearing couldn’t have come at a better time. All of the witnesses have talked about instilling confidence in the process. [inaudible 00:12:43].
Speaker 1: (01:02:52)
Funding from Congress.
Speaker 3: (01:02:58)
[inaudible 01:02:58] better enable us.
Speaker 2: (01:03:06)
Yes. Resources and if state policy makers listen to the election officials in their states, in terms of what they’re asking for [inaudible 00:13:19], policy changes.
Speaker 4: (01:03:24)
Chairman Thompson, I would concur with my colleagues. I think that it is possible to have a safe and fair election and secure election. I do, in addition to the resources, I think that activities within the individual states need to be focused on accelerating the planning and the preparation for the November election. We’ve talked in this hearing about mail in ballots, that’s one component, there will be other situations where there won’t be mail in ballots. DHS CISA produced a very nice pamphlet that talked about if you’re going to have in person ballot, these are the types of protections that you might want to use in order to be able to [inaudible 01:04:12] the safe separation that we desire.
Speaker 4: (01:04:14)
So I think there’s some things that we can do, perhaps at a federal level, but I think as well, internal to the states, [inaudible 01:04:23] less around the sense of urgency needed to put in place those processes and procedures needed to be able to vote safe in November.
Mr. Thompson: (01:04:31)
Well, I’m glad to see that our witnesses have pretty much put forth the confidence in our current system. I don’t know any system that can’t be improved upon. But by and large, the Democrats on this committee have supported more funding, we have offered additional funding to secretaries of state. We’ve coordinated our comments with national [inaudible 01:05:06]. And this is how we [inaudible 01:05:17] ballot registered voter. That was a decision in the state of Michigan.
Mr. Thompson: (01:05:21)
But as you say it, it’s an individual states prerogative to do the process that they think works best, there’s no real cookie cutter approach and so we recognize the funding. One of the things that I’m concerned about is all of what we do for November, given the COVID-19 environment, is predicated on our postal service being functional. And so Ms. [Macminal’s 01:05:55] postal workers and election officials, have raised concern that changes in the postal service to the standards, could jeopardize the timely delivery of ballots. Are you concerned that changes in these standards could result in voters being disenfranchised and how should state and local election officials coordinate with the postal service to ensure vote by mail deadlines, align with postal service standards?
Speaker 2: (01:06:30)
Yes. Mr. Chairman, thank you for the question. And I am concerned about the changes that the postal system has made recently. Coordination between election officials and the post office is absolutely critical before every single election. And as you pointed out, every system can improve. There’s not a single perfect government system or government entity that exists. And so there’s opportunities to improve. I have made various suggestions, frankly, from being an election official, but also being from a state where we implemented a system of mailing ballots to every elector and so that coordination with the post office was critical. And during that time as an election official, I not only learned about the post office, but spent time digging into their processes, their procedures, their timelines, everything about it that impacted elections. And with my understanding of how all of that works, the post office is absolutely critical to the conduct, the running and the successful conduct of elections in this country.
Speaker 2: (01:07:44)
And as I mentioned, it’s not just mail ballots, it’s all of the other legally required notices, valid issue notices, polling place notices, poll worker appointment letters, candidate notices, and the official certified mail is usually how candidates are deemed to be certified on the ballot. So there are just critical elements to this. And one of the suggestions that, if we look at how the post office has operated, how it’s supported elections overall, one thing that a lot of people miss is that right now for military and overseas ballots, postage is paid for outbound and inbound ballots in every single state, for every single military and overseas voter that engages with the election process.
Speaker 2: (01:08:29)
And so there’s a federal [inaudible 01:08:31] right on those military and overseas ballots, that that payment happens through the Department of Defense to the post office. I’ve suggested a similar type of model for domestic voters because it would actually streamline a lot of the processes, the post office wouldn’t have to accept payments from seven or 8,000 different local election offices. It would actually be much more efficient if we had a federal process in [inaudible 01:08:58] for mail ballot postage to be paid on the outbound process in the inbound process. So that’s just one example of an administrative efficiency that I think would not only enhance service, but also streamline operations for both sides of things, election officials, as well as the post office. So those are a couple of things and I’m happy to answer more questions.
Mr. Thompson: (01:09:20)
Thank you. My time is expired. But Mr. Chairman, I want to highlight that any tampering with the current system, puts the processes at risk. There’s no question we can improve it, but the call is we are about 90 days away from an election. It’s absolutely critical that we make the current system work, any finagling with that system, puts the process in jeopardy and I want to keep the confidence factor where it is. And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back. Thank you.
Mr. Richmond: (01:09:59)
The gentleman from Mississippi yields back. I now recognize the general lady from Texas, Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee, for five minutes. Well, we’ll get to Ms. Jackson Lee, when she comes back, I will now recognize the gentleman from Rhode Island, Mr. Jim Langevin.
Mr. Langevin: (01:10:26)
Thank you. Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (01:10:28)
Mr. Langevin: (01:10:29)
Oh, I think Sheila’s there. Should I yield to her?
Mr. Richmond: (01:10:36)
Mr. Langevin: (01:10:39)
Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank our witnesses for their testimony today. Very helpful insights into your views on election security and being able to conduct successful elections this November. Obviously this is a cornerstone of our democracy, and we want to make sure that our elections are both accessible, free and secure, and your insights are very helpful. The cyberspace Solarium Commission also made several strong recommendations regarding media literacy and civics education, in ways to build resiliency to disinformation campaigns. We’ve seen some nascent efforts at the federal level, for instance, CISA’s principal, they call it pineapple pizza campaign, but the commissioners believe that much more needs to be done at some level of dis or misinformation is inevitable given our commitment as a society to free speech. Do you agree with this assessment?
Mr. Langevin: (01:11:45)
And also the Solarium Commission recommends that civics media literacy education needs to be spread out across a lifetime. It can’t be a single class one takes in high school. And we emphasize, for instance, that the need to help seniors better understand the changing media landscape. Do you agree with this assessment and how should we think about voter resilience as part of our broader election security strategy? For any of the witnesses that want to start?
Mr. Gilligan: (01:12:24)
So Congressman Langevin, this is John Gilligan. Although my focus and my organizations focus is on cyber security, I would echo the remarks that you made and endorse the recommendations made by the Solarium Commission. My assessment is when I look at the risks that we have to the voting process today, I think that the potential of mis and disinformation having an impact on the voting, is greater, in many regards, than the potential of cyber threats. So I think the approach that is recommended by the Solarium Commission in part, to improve awareness among the public of mis and disinformation, to help, especially our youth begin to understand how to look at social media and how to look at multiple sources of information, I think is particularly important. I believe that this issue, as I mentioned in my testimony, will be an area that will require some congressional focus in the future because we don’t have the norms and the legislative rules that I think would be helpful going forward.
Mr. Langevin: (01:13:44)
Thank you. And we’ve largely been talking about the November election, but the Solarium Commission’s work, it was not necessarily specific to this year’s contest as well. And indeed, we should be thinking about now the longer term challenges, in addition to the short term. Can you talk about what concerns should the EAC be preparing for now to safeguard elections beyond 2020? For any of our witnesses?
Speaker 2: (01:14:21)
Sure. I can jump in there. And I agree with endorsing that commission’s report. I think civics and disinformation security, all of these things are really going to be lifelong things that we’re going to have to adjust and learn to. I’m actually a single mom of two and when my ballot comes every election, it’s a civics lesson for my seven and nine year old and they understand very clearly how to find good information about the voting process and we walk through that every single time. I think in terms of the EAC, again, this is going to be a, it’s a continuum of improvements over time, and we’re going to have threats that we face this year, that are going to be different than next year.
Ms. McReynolds: (01:15:03)
We’re going to have threats that we face this year that are going to be different than next year, but this misinformation and disinformation has been plaguing the election system for the past few years, and we haven’t come up with a very good solution. So, I think civics education, educating voters about how to find good information and how to find trusted sources of information is going to be absolutely critical, and then continually improving how we identify that. How we create systems that can flag those issues so that voters can clearly get the information that they need.
Speaker 5: (01:15:34)
Thank you. Mr. [Ravine 00:01:15:36], beyond the 2020 elections, any thoughts about what [inaudible 01:15:42]?
Mr. Levine: (01:15:42)
Sure. Congressman. Yeah, and to Ms. McReynolds and Mr. [Yogane’s 01:15:46] point, I think the solarium commission’s remarks and recommendations with regards to that civic education is a critical piece. I think there are a few things that are worth noting. Number one, we know that there are other countries that have done this, in some respects better than we have. We can look to countries like Sweden and the Netherlands who also have been dealing with foreign interference threats for some time, who have more comprehensive approaches to deal with some of the threats that are outlined in terms of mis and disinformation. Now I’d also underscore to your point as well that the Election Assistance Commission recently got some additional funding, which paralleled or went in concert nicely with the commission’s recommendation and that you’ve seen the EAC begin to ramp up. In terms of some of the hires that they brought on, they now have more people with a cyber background. And so, I think there’s a real opportunity for them to be able to step up and continue to provide cyber resources that enables state and local election officials to prepare for those evolving threats.
Mr. Levine: (01:16:48)
And so, I think to your point, being able to bring people on who could assist state and local election officials who are always strapped is important. I think being able to look outward for best practices from other states who are doing this kind of work, as well as other countries, is also really important as well.
Speaker 5: (01:17:08)
Thank you. I know my time’s expired and I’d like to thank all of our witnesses for their testimony. I didn’t have time to get to what we need to do to protect people with disabilities and insuring barriers are brought down for them, but perhaps we can submit those questions for the record, but thank you for your testimony, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding this hearing. It’s very important as we get ready for the 2020 election and beyond. Thank you for your leadership, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Mr. Chairman: (01:17:36)
Thank you. The gentlemen from Rhode Island yields back. I now recognize the general lady from Texas, Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee.
Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee: (01:17:42)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the ranking member for this important hearing. We know that the New York Times said that John Lewis risked his life for justice and in his OpEd, he indicated that the vote is precious, but we will lose if we do not use it. The constitution also acknowledges that local elections and state elections are that of those jurisdictions, but it does not deny Congress the right to involve itself by law or regulation, which I believe is extremely important in the process of which we’re dealing with at this moment. It is important to give confidence to the American people so that misinformation, and disinformation, and voter suppression will not keep the majority of Americans, all of Americans, from the right to vote. So, I pose this question first to our witnesses, please. Over the last couple of days, there have been statements about the election should be moved. I believe there is no law and no right to move the November election, no constitutional right to move that election, but that has been in the public atmosphere.
Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee: (01:18:54)
So, I raised the question, in your professional opinions, how does the current president’s persistent rhetoric about increased fraudulent imbalance and changing the date of the elections, and by the way, two federal elections were held during the Civil War, how would that impact voter impact, voter confidence? And I raise that question with Ms. Sylvia Albert to answer that question.
Ms. Sylvia Albert: (01:19:21)
Well, thank you for the question Congresswoman Lee. We have seen already that the President’s rhetoric is affecting the confidence that voters have in vote by mail, particularly, and also in elections in general. I think we can be [inaudible 01:19:39] by the fact that elections officials around the country uniformly have responded to the misinformation that the President has shared with the right information. And I think what’s important, and as we speak about elections going forward, is not to be thinking about defensive procedures, but offensive. We need to engage our community in the civic education and inoculation that would protect them from being effected by this misinformation.
Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee: (01:20:14)
Thank you very much. In 2016, Russia was blamed for breaching 21 local and state election systems. In fact, Robert Mullen released indictments of 13 Russians regarding interference in our 2016 elections. Mr. Levine, what should we be focusing on? And what, if any, has the Marshall fund seen that should be done regarding the outside international interference in our elections, which is predicted to be extensive in 2020? Mr. Levine?
Mr. Levine: (01:20:47)
Sure. Congresswoman, thank you for that important question. I’ll make a couple of points to your question * that I think are worth noting. Number one, I think that election officials need to have plan A and plan B. For almost every cyber component of our election infrastructure there can be an analog piece that can be available to use so that in the event of any kind of cyber event we have something to fall back on and we’ve seen this happen in a number of ways. We know that for those States and communities that use electronic poll books or electronic lists of voters to check in, if there’s either a technical glitch or in fact, a nefarious act, we know that if people have paper poll books, they can continue that voting process. We know that with regards to election night reporting websites, we know that if a website is to go down, for example, because of a denial of service attack and it folks can have redundant websites where they can have other means to be able to share that information that can help ensure that there is voter confidence.
Mr. Levine: (01:21:48)
And so making sure that folks have things like additional ballots, paper poll books, redundant websites. Making sure that as we look now, we probably are seeing an increase in folks that, for example, are requesting absentee bouts online. Making sure that in fact, if you can’t make such a request that maybe you have a fillable PDF form so that you’re still able to have that request through. I think that’s really, really important. I think the second piece that I think is worth noting really quickly is that it’s really important that the information from the intelligence and law enforcement community about the threats as much as possible as being shared with state election officials and subsequently with the American public. So, that as much as possible the American public has the opportunity to prepare accordingly with regards to miss and disinformation out of the threats.
Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee: (01:22:33)
Thank you so very much. Mr. Gilligan, if you would just give, quickly, one significant action that Congress can take regarding internet security in the voting process. Mr. Gilligan?
Mr. Gilligan: (01:22:49)
Thank you Congresswoman. Let’s see if I were to think of one thing that Congress could do, I think what I would suggest is the following and we’ve, we’ve seen indications of it in some of the comments from the members. And that is when we address the security of local elections offices, we have to realize that they are under resourced and don’t have the talent that the state level and the larger elections jurisdictions do. And so, what I think is going to be important going forward is we cannot assume that the local elections offices are ever going to be able to protect themselves. We actually have to do it for them, and this is a discussion that we’re having with the state level organizations. I mentioned in my testimony some capabilities that we are working to deploy within the system and the elections community, that in fact is, sort of, we can do it and we can deploy it without a whole lot of support from the local elections offices and support and actually them.
Mr. Gilligan: (01:23:55)
One of them is this Endpoint Detection and Response. The other is this malicious domain reporting, blocking and reporting. And so, I think what then the recommendation that I would make the Congress is if Congress could help in the funding of these initiatives to get them off the ground, to get enough of it deployed, ultimately, what we have seen in other situations is the States will start to kick in funding over time, but to get the ball rolling, federal funding has been really helpful. So thank you.
Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee: (01:24:27)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. I yield at that.
Mr. Chairman: (01:24:27)
The General Lady from Texas has yielded back on that. I now recognize the General Lady from New York, Ms. Rice. Five minutes.
Ms. Rice: (01:24:34)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I would ask to put this question out to all of the witnesses. I believe, Ms. McReynolds, you were talking about how things are done in your state of Colorado. What state or locality does mail in ballot voting really well? What system can we emulate? We in New York have done this for a long time, but we had a historically very difficult time in our June primary. And it actually took five weeks to certify a congressional primary, and we think of ourselves in New York as pretty progressive when it comes to these issues. So, who can we look to there? We still have three and a half months before people go to the… Well, September, no, three months before people go to the polls. So, maybe if you could just expand on who you think does it really well.
Ms. McReynolds: (01:25:30)
Sure. And thank you for the question Congressman. Yes. I mean, we saw issues in New York. I think that New York actually has lagged behind many States in terms of updating policies around voting access. So, there hasn’t been early voting, there wasn’t no-excuse-absentee up to this point. There’s really been a lot of issues in New York. Exorbitantly long lines, actually, back in 2018 and even prior to that. So, there’s been issues there, and I think there’s some updating of policies that definitely need to happen. In terms of my expert opinion on sort of the work I did in Colorado, and then the work I’ve now done with various States, I think, it’s not necessarily a cookie cutter approach. However, what we have in front of us is a good example of a slew of States that have implemented various policies in the last few years that have improved their processes, improved the system for voters and also enhanced security.
Ms. McReynolds: (01:26:28)
Colorado is one of them. California adopted a model that looks very much like Colorado. Utah has expanded their voting at home program to be now for the entire state and they’ve emulated some of those good practices from Colorado, as well as Oregon and Washington. [crosstalk 00:01:26:46].
Ms. Rice: (01:26:47)
So, what were those practices, if you can just tell us. If you can give-
Ms. McReynolds: (01:26:52)
Sure. So, a couple of things that we did in Colorado that I think are good to emulate. One is modernizing registration. So, we have automatic registration. We automatically update addresses based on moves that we get from the motor vehicle locations or from the United States post office. We literally consume that data monthly, update addresses. So, Colorado, for instance, in many of the States in the West have the cleanest voter files in the country. We also have created systems like ballot tracking. So, ballot tracking started in Denver, Colorado way back in 2009. That is a notification system just like tracking a package where you get a text or email about when your ballot goes out, when it’s on its way to you, and then confirmation when the election official receives it. That’s one of the top level recommendations that States can do right now. There’s technology available and it doesn’t require a lot of change in any state. You can literally adopt it as a service to voters and it enhances security, and it’s one of our top level recommendations.
Ms. McReynolds: (01:27:56)
The final recommendation I would say is expanding drop-off options for voters. So, at secure 24 hour drop boxes. At drive up drop-off, there’s examples of drive up, drop off just like a drive through line at a restaurant. You can drop off your ballot through the window of your car and not have to get out, not have to interact with anybody. And then, finally, expanding drop-off options to accept mail ballots at all voting locations. Not every state allows you to drop your ballot off at a polling place, and those are examples. Those drop-off options and ballot tracking can be done now, can be adopted now across the country and there’s time to do that.
Ms. Rice: (01:28:39)
Can I also ask you, because there are going to be some people who actually want to go to the polls. Personally, I know that New York is not unique. Most of our poll Watchers are people who are in that vulnerable age bracket who may not want to be sitting at a poll for 12 hours in November, God forbid, that we are where we are still with this virus. So, what would you suggest to improve, I mean, obviously it doesn’t help that people are closing down polling locations. Other than keeping as many open as possible, what would you suggest to secure people who prefer to vote in person?
Ms. McReynolds: (01:29:20)
Yeah, I mean, in-person voting has to exist, but we have to think about it in a different way than we’ve ever thought about it before, and what I mean by that is we need, for instance, the business community to step up and offer locations. One of the things that’s happening now, which I’m sure many of you seen is there’s this concept of arenas, large sports facilities being used as polling places. Kentucky used their state fairgrounds, and we’re able to serve tens of polling places all in one place with social distancing. So, these sort of large locations are really important. I have suggested car dealerships. I think car dealerships in the showrooms and the accessibility of them, given where they are usually located, would be excellent locations in, in many of the big cities. So, we have to be creative. I think the business community can really help solve a lot of these challenges, whether they offer a polling place, offer their workers to help on election day or offer their location to be even a drive up, drop off. Even a drive up drop off would be tremendously helpful in States.
Ms. McReynolds: (01:30:25)
So, this is kind of an all of community type of response that we really need to see happen to make sure that our vote is protected.
Ms. Rice: (01:30:33)
Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. Chairman: (01:30:43)
The General Lady from New York has yielded back. I now recognize the General Lady from Illinois, Ms. Underwood, for five minutes.
Ms. Underwood: (01:30:50)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The integrity of our elections is essential to the preservation of our Republic. The curing our elections is a major concern for my constituents in Illinois, where the personal information of 76,000 voters was accessed by Russian operatives in 2016. We must immediately invest in our election infrastructure to protect our democracy against ongoing attempts to interfere. On top of those preexisting threats, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for greater flexibility in how, when and where people vote. Nobody should be forced to choose between protecting their health and exercising their constitutional rights. Election security is national security, and I’m grateful to our witnesses for advising this committee on how to protect it, whether that means preventing foreign interference or conducting safe and accessible elections during a pandemic. Ms. Albert one result of the pandemic, or rather a result of this administration’s failure to adequately respond to the pandemic and support family during this crisis, is a surge of housing instability. Many Americans are out of work and at risk of losing their homes, whether they rent or own. Suddenly a lot of people’s addresses may soon be out of date.
Ms. Underwood: (01:32:05)
How can we protect the voting rights of people experiencing housing instability during this crisis and make sure that they’re not subject to unnecessary voter registration purchase?
Ms. Sylvia Albert: (01:32:17)
Thank you for the question, Congresswoman. As we’ve talked about before, HR1 contains many different provisions that would be beneficial in moments like this. I think the thing that we have seen in this pandemic is that our system is not as flexible and comprehensive as it could be in order to meet the needs of different communities. So, for example, community who are experiencing housing displacement right now, the homeless community, they are strongly benefited by same day registration or an in addition provisions that allow for updating registration at the polling locations, and to be clear, I mean real same day registration, which means you can go to your voting polling location and update your address and it’s not, you have to go downtown to the main office that’s only open between nine and three on election day in order to update your address. And I guess, really what we are seeing is that the vulnerable communities are just more vulnerable in this situation and are really dealing with much more than they ever have before.
Ms. Sylvia Albert: (01:33:38)
So, not only do we need to be looking at this now, but we really should be modernizing our system for the next disaster, for the next pandemic, for the next hurricane to really meet the needs of our constituents.
Ms. Underwood: (01:33:51)
Mr. Levine, and Ms. McReynolds, do you believe voting from home could help these displace voters? And if so, what does the federal government need to do right now to make sure that Americans are able to vote from home, even if their address changes within the next few months?
Ms. McReynolds: (01:34:06)
Sure. I can answer that. And I, one thing I would say about what we did in Colorado is we created this system of same day registration combined with automatic registration combined with mailing a ballot to all electors. So we have a process and try to create and fill all those gaps. But then we also created the concept of vote centers, and that started in Colorado as well as an innovation. That allows a voter to go to any of the locations and update their address, or what have you, and that really reduced provisional ballots by 98% and converted those to normal ballots because most of the people that would show up at the wrong polling place was because of an address change. And so, we created a new way to deal with in-person voting that has significantly improved the voting experience. So, Vote Centers is also a really great concept.
Ms. McReynolds: (01:34:59)
The one thing I would say about Vote Centers is it does require technology. It is going to be a much bigger lift to set up ahead of November because there’s a short period of time, but there still is a way to handle provisional and all of those sorts of things, should somebody not receive their mail ballot. The other aspect I would say is that it’s critically important before every election that voters check their registration, make sure they’re active, make sure their address is up to date, and then if something does go awry with their mail ballot not arriving, that they utilize the processes that are in place in various States and I’m from Illinois. So, I’m also familiar with some of the Illinois provisions, and make sure that voters are familiar with what they can do to take action should they not their ballot. And in every single state, you can still vote in person, you still have that provisional ballot as a safeguard should something happen that makes it difficult for you to receive your ballot.
Ms. Underwood: (01:35:59)
Well, Mr. Levine, I’m out of time, but thank you so much to all of our witnesses for being here. We appreciate this information and your testimony before our committee, and Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. Chairman: (01:36:11)
The general lady from Illinois has yield back. I want to thank the witnesses for their valuable testimony and the members for their questions. The members of the subcommittee may have additional questions for the witnesses, and we ask that you respond expeditiously in writing to those questions. Without objection, the committee record shall be kept open for 10 days. Hearing no further businesses, the subcommittee stands for adjourned.