Thank you, Chairwoman Sherrill, Chairwoman Stevens, Ranking Member Norman and Ranking Member Baird, for holding today’s hearing.
The integrity and security of elections is fundamental to democracy in the United States. Americans must have confidence in the accuracy of election results, or we risk losing the public trust in government and our political system.
Although there is no evidence to date that a single vote was changed in the 2016 or 2018 elections due to a cyberattack or foreign interference, we know that our adversaries are looking to erode public confidence in elections.
Prior to the 2016 federal election, a series of cyberattacks occurred on information systems of state and local election jurisdictions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced that some state election jurisdictions had been the victims of cyberattacks aimed at exfiltrating data from information systems in those jurisdictions. The attacks appeared to be of Russian-government origin.
Although these attacks did not result in actual votes being changed, they served as a warning to Federal, State, and local officials that we must be vigilant about securing our elections.
The U.S. Constitution vests the responsibility of administering elections with State and local governments. However, the Federal government has an important role to play, in providing guidance and assistance to states on election systems. The Federal government can and should also work closely with State and local election officials to deal with foreign and domestic cyber threats.
Concerns with earlier versions of voting and election systems led to the passage of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA). This Act requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), over which our Committee has jurisdiction, to work with the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on technical, voluntary guidelines for voting.
NIST plays an important role in conducting research on election systems and providing technical assistance and guidelines. NIST is a trusted partner by both industry and State governments. Because these guidelines are voluntary, States and private companies are more willing to share information with the agency, which results in better voluntary standards and guidelines. It is important that we support NIST in this work, and not erode their role in election security.
In Oklahoma, we have an election system that is secure, reliable, and provides timely results. I want to thank Mr. Paul Ziriax, Secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board, for testifying today. Oklahomans can trust in the results of our State’s elections, thanks to the thoughtful work of Paul and his staff. I look forward to hearing about how the Federal government can best support states like Oklahoma in their work, without creating mandates that are one-size-fits-all.
What works for California might not work for Oklahoma, and I am glad we have two State and local election officials on the panel to hear what tools they need to administer secure elections in their jurisdictions.
The Science Committee has demonstrated over the last few months how Committees should work. Under the leadership of Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, we have been conducting hearings and moving legislation under regular order, and in a bipartisan and productive fashion, to make progress for the American people.
Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership of the House has chosen to ignore the Committee process, and rush two partisan bills to the floor in the name of “election security,” including H.R. 2722, a bill that will be considered on the House floor later this week. That bill is partially in the Science Committee’s jurisdiction, but leadership ignored regular order, and never gave our Committee members the opportunity to consider the legislation.
Unfortunately, that partisan bill goes far beyond securing elections – setting mandates on State and local governments for the administration of elections that have nothing to do with security or election integrity.
Republicans want to work with Democrats on election security. I hope this hearing demonstrates that commitment on both sides of the aisle and lays the groundwork for bipartisan legislation out of this Committee to update NIST’s election security activities.
Again, thank you to the chairs and ranking members for holding this hearing. I yield back.