Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Congressman Joaquin Castro

Representing the 20th District of Texas

Castro Urges House Appropriations Committee to Strongly Support Election Assistance Commission, State Grants for Election Security

Mar 6, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C.– Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, today joined a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Reform Chairman Tom Graves, and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Reform Ranking Member Mike Quigley urging them for increased funding for the Election Assistance Commission and money for state grants on election security.

“The EAC is the only federal agency charged with making American elections more secure, accessible, accurate, and transparent.  It has built strong relationships with state and local election officials as well as cybersecurity experts, and has been vital to helping states understand and respond to the threats confronting their election infrastructure,” the Members wrote.

The Members continued: “We cannot leave states to their own devices in defending against the sophisticated cyber tactics of foreign governments. An attack on the electoral infrastructure in one state is an attack on all of democracy in America.”

The letter was also signed by: Whip Steny Hoyer; Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Robert Brady; House Committee on Homeland Security Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson; Rep. Zoe Lofgren; Rep. Jamie Raskin; Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester; Rep. Jim Cooper; Rep. Val Demings; Rep. James R. Langevin; Rep. John Lewis; Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr.; Rep. Brad Schneider; Rep. John Yarmuth; and Rep. Cedric L. Richmond.

Congressman Castro also joined a press conference today which focused on the letter and called on House Republicans to uphold their oath of office and protect our elections at all levels of government. Livestream can be found here.

Full text of the letter can be found below and here.

March 6, 2018

 

The Honorable Rodney P. Frelinghuysen                      

Chairman                                                                    

Committee on Appropriations                                       

United States House of Representatives                                                                         

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

The Honorable Nita M. Lowey

Ranking Member

Committee on Appropriations                                       

United States House of Representatives                                     

Washington, D.C. 20515                                              

 

The Honorable Tom Graves                                         

Chairman                                                                    

Subcommittee on Financial Services and                       

General Government                                                    

Committee on Appropriations                                      

United States House of Representatives                        

Washington, D.C. 20515                                              

 

The Honorable Mike Quigley

Ranking Member                                             

Subcommittee on Financial Services and                       

General Government                                                    

Committee on Appropriations                                      

United States House of Representatives                        

Washington, D.C. 20515                                              

Dear Chairman Frelinghuysen, Chairman Graves, Ranking Member Lowey, and Ranking Member Quigley:

We write to express strong support for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and to respectfully request that the EAC receive $14 million so it can continue to assist states in their urgent efforts to secure voting systems in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.  In addition, we request that you appropriate $400 million under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) for states to use to replace aging and vulnerable voting machines and to provide cybersecurity training.[1] Intelligence officials continue to warn that our state-based electoral system is a target for foreign meddling and cyber-attacking, and we believe this money is necessary to protect American elections against the possibility of imminent attack.[2] 

The EAC is the only federal agency charged with making American elections more secure, accessible, accurate, and transparent.  It has built strong relationships with state and local election officials as well as cybersecurity experts, and has been vital to helping states understand and respond to the threats confronting their election infrastructure.  The EAC has worked diligently, with a bare-bones budget, over the past few years to provide guidance on cybersecurity and election technology.  But at this critical time, the Commission needs additional resources now to fully respond to the needs of the states.

Providing the EAC with additional funds would enable them to hire two additional staffers whose exclusive responsibilities would be to work directly with state and local election officials, as well as cybersecurity experts, on improving cybersecurity.  In addition, the agency could hire two additional researchers to develop best practices on cybersecurity and risk-limiting audits, and to create materials to train election officials and poll workers on security issues.  The EAC would also be able to hold a summit to bring together computer scientists, “white hat” hackers, and academics to examine election technologies and expose any vulnerabilities before the equipment is put to use.  Finally, the EAC could increase the amount of funds it transfers to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to $2.5 million which would enable NIST to provide further technical expertise on voting machine standards.

Furthermore, states need an additional $400 million in grants under HAVA to be appropriated so they can safeguard their voting infrastructure. The single most urgent need is for states using paperless machines to replace their outdated equipment with paper ballot voting systems.  The Brennan Center estimates that the cost to replace paperless voting machines is between $130 and $400 million, and states do not have the money to do it themselves.[3]  Moreover, state and local officials have expressed a desire for Congress to step in.  In December 2017, the National Association of Secretaries of States (NASS) called upon Congress to provide the states with the remaining HAVA funds.  President of NASS and Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said, “The challenges faced by state and local election officials in 2017 are quite different from those we faced in 2002.”[4]

Appropriating a new round of HAVA grants would not address all security concerns.  States would still need funding to hire IT staff, upgrade and maintain IT infrastructure, and for cybersecurity training.  But $400 million would allow states to address their biggest vulnerability by replacing paperless voting machines. 

We cannot leave states to their own devices in defending against the sophisticated cyber tactics of foreign governments.   An attack on the electoral infrastructure in one state is an attack on all of democracy in America.  Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security, and Grover Norquist wrote in The Washington Post, “It’s not practical to expect local election administrators in rural Missouri or small-town Maine to go toe-to-toe with the premier government-backed cyber-mercenaries in China or North Korea.  Just as federal agencies prudently provide support for state law enforcement in dealing with terrorism, federal officials should give guidance and support in dealing with the election cybersecurity threat.” 

We urge you to fully fund HAVA and provide the EAC with the support it needs so that the federal government can meaningfully assist states in securing our election systems. 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Very truly yours,

 

# # #