In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky write about the danger of allowing the federal government to use vote hacking fears to launch a power grab of our election system.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned Russia last week that Americans “will not ignore attempts to interfere with our democratic processes.” Rumors are rife about hackers, Russian or otherwise, getting into the U.S. election system in November, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has what he considers a solution: He wants to use his authority under a post-9/11 federal law designed to protect the country against terrorist attacks to designate the election system as “critical infrastructure.”
There is legitimate concern that the election-management software being developed by some companies may include a wireless capability that could potentially be exploited. Election officials need to ensure that such capabilities are either completely shut down or taken out of the software they use.
The security on some of these individual electronic voting machines is poor. But hacking them requires unobserved physical access to the machine. That is difficult to do in secured warehouses where they are kept before Election Day or at polling sites where election officials are monitoring their use. Perhaps if the Russians could recruit thousands of hackers to go into polling places to hack individual machines without being noticed, they could steal a presidential election. Otherwise, they don’t have a chance.
Nothing prevents Secretary Johnson from issuing recommendations on security improvements if he is really worried about this issue. So why is he talking about designating the election system as “critical infrastructure?”
Under a 2013 presidential directive, such a designation gives the Justice Department authority to “investigate, disrupt, prosecute, and otherwise reduce” threats to that infrastructure—while DHS is given the power to “coordinate the overall Federal effort” to ensure the security of the infrastructure. Administration officials could use this designation as a way of giving federal officials access as “observers” or investigators to voting precincts across the country, as well as election and voting systems.
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