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Katko Opening Statement at Election Interference Hearing

November 19, 2019

Katko Opening Statement at Election Interference Hearing

WASHINGTON – Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation Subcommittee ranking member, today delivered the following opening statement at a hearing entitled “The Road to 2020:  Defending Against Election Interference.”

Securing our elections remains one of the most pressing issues our country faces. Secure voting systems and the accurate reporting of votes is foundational to our democracy. Americans should have full confidence in every aspect of our election process.

Unfortunately, our election systems have also become the principal target of several adversaries.

Disinformation campaigns engineered by Russia have sewn political discord within our election process. Social media has become a haven for false information regarding election day procedures and misinformation of candidates. Disinformation campaigns serve to confuse voters and undermine their confidence in the electoral process.  

While foreign influence has had a measured effect on our discourse, election results have fortunately remained untouched. The success of the 2018 midterms demonstrated the progress that the federal government and our state and local partners have made. I want to applaud election security efforts led by CISA and their partnerships with state and local governments that have resulted in a marked improvement of information sharing and cohesion. Additionally, growing participation within the Election Infrastructure ISAC by local election officials has provided thousands of election offices with the cyber resources they need to maintain the reliability of their election infrastructure.

Paper trails for voting systems are now in use in all but a few states, providing voters with an incorruptible record of their vote. The continued development of auditing techniques confirms voting results where voter tallies may be called into question. These software independent techniques have become invaluable to protecting our election systems from cyber-attacks. Software independence of our election infrastructure is essential for the integrity of our election systems.

This progress does not mean our election systems are secure. In my district, we have seen multiple ransomware attacks affecting critical functions of the Syracuse City School District and Onondaga County Library System. One can imagine the effect of a similar targeted ransomware campaign aimed at voter registration database systems before an election. Such an attack would hijack our election process and undermine all voter confidence in election results. 

Furthermore, we must continue to develop our relationships with state and local election partners to ensure federal cybersecurity resources are being utilized. While participation in the Election Infrastructure ISAC has improved since the 2016 elections, thousands of local election offices remain independent. Local election offices are not equipped to handle the cyber threats to their election infrastructure alone. It is imperative the federal government makes available its cybersecurity resources to every local election office.

Election security has a history of bipartisan cooperation and support. Ensuring that our election process is uncompromised must remain a top priority for both sides of the aisle. I am confident that we can take the necessary reasonable steps to continually improve our election systems.

I thank the witnesses for providing the Committee with their testimony and I look forward to hearing their ideas on how we can further improve the security of our election systems.

I want thank Chairman Richmond for calling this important hearing and I yield back.