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Katko Opening Statement At Election Security Hearing

August 4, 2020

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 “Secure, Safe, and Auditable: Protecting the Integrity of the 2020 Elections.”

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want thank Chairman Richmond for holding this important hearing.

Although we have made significant progress since 2016, election security remains a major concern of mine. Secure voting systems and the accurate reporting of votes are foundational to our democracy.  Americans should have full confidence in every aspect of our election process. 

I want to applaud election security efforts led by Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and its partnerships with state, local, territorial, and tribal governments that have resulted in a marked improvement of election security over 2016.  CISA provides state and local officials with technical assistance, playbooks, and exercises, shares information on threats, and assists with responding to cyber incidents.

The pandemic has injected new elements of uncertainty into the 2020 elections that have forced many local election officials to reinvent the process by which citizens vote.  These changes will keep citizens and poll workers safe while maintaining citizens’ faith in the process.  In March, Congress provided $400 million in new Help American Vote Act (HAVA) funds to states to prepare for and conduct the 2020 Election during the pandemic. Aided by this infusion of funding, state and local election officials are adjusting to huge increases in voting by mail and the consolidation of voting locations.

CISA is also working with state and local election officials to head off disinformation campaigns engineered by adversaries.  A key component of this strategy is countering the opportunity for adversaries to spread disinformation on remote voting procedures and changes in polling locations.  CISA has assisted state and local officials with methods to drive voters to reliable sources of information, and how to communicate changes to election procedures, polling locations, and times.  

Election security for 2020 has also improved as a result of the growing participation in the Election Infrastructure ISAC (EI-ISAC) by state and local election officials.  The EI-ISAC has provided thousands of election offices with the cyber resources they need to maintain the reliability of their election infrastructure including best practices, tools, training, and information sharing and analysis.

However, many local election offices don’t have the IT knowledge or resources necessary to take advantage of this information. These local election offices are not equipped to handle cyber threats to their election infrastructure alone. 

This is why I introduced my Cyber Navigators bill which authorizes grants for state and local governments to hire cybersecurity experts to provide risk management, resiliency, and technical support in the administration of elections.  My bill enables a state to hire a cybersecurity expert familiar with a state’s unique election systems.  The regional nature of the assistance ensures that these navigators are able to establish relationships with their regional and state election officials.  By targeting the assistance at the administration of elections, state election officials aren’t forced to compete with other state priorities.

Election security has a history of bipartisan cooperation and support.  Ensuring that our election process is uncompromised during the upcoming election must remain a top priority for both sides of the aisle.  I look forward to continuing to work towards this goal with my colleagues on the Subcommittee.

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

I yield back.