About That DHS Decision That Is ‘Not a Takeover’ of Elections

Published On: January 13th, 2017

Public Interest Legal Foundation Communications Director Logan Churchwell writes about six issues all should be aware of with respect to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s decision to “designate” state election systems as “critical infrastructure”:

The Department of Homeland Security could not have picked a better succeeding week to perform a Friday news dump announcing its decision to designate state election systems as “critical infrastructure” like previously done for the nation’s transport, electrical, financial, and water systems. Though this largely predictable move has sparked concerns among state election officials and watchdogs with respect to federal over-reach, equal uneasiness has been expressed about the incredibly vague nature DHS has chosen to describe how it will intervene in Constitutionally-prescribed state matters.

Days ago, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced his department’s decision to designate America’s “polling places, vote tabulations locations, voter registration databases, voting machines” and other elements wholly maintained or overseen by local governments to now be subcategorized with other assets deemed worthy of Washington’s protection. Johnson couched the need to intervene on the basis of improving cybersecurity protections for state systems.

Hoping to minimize public concerns that Washington was over-stepping its bounds, Secretary Johnson noted, “This designation does not mean a federal takeover, regulation, oversight or intrusion concerning elections in this country.” (original emphasis) The outgoing secretary made a noticeably vague reference to the specter of alleged Russian attempts to hack and influence the 2016 Election by saying his decision is “simply the right and obvious thing to do.”

Given the relative unknowns that come with this decision, if left unchanged, there are six matters to be aware of in the coming months.

Read the full article, here.

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