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Schumer Seeks Funding To Safeguard Election Systems

Sen. Schumer
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas
Sen. Schumer

New York’s senior U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer says he’ll push for legislation in the upcoming federal budget to provide funds for local boards of election to harden their security against potential threats by foreign governments.

Schumer toured the Center for Internet Security in East Greenbush, just outside Albany. It’s a firm that contracts with the federal Department of Homeland Security to provide technical expertise to help local Boards of Elections in all 50 states as well as U.S. territories to protect their systems from hackers, including potential attacks from Russia and China. CIS is credited with first discovering evidence of Russian interference 2016 elections in the U.S.

“There’s no principal more important to our democracy than free and fair elections,” said Schumer, who said Russia and China want to interfere with US elections so Americans lose confidence in the process.

“If people no longer trust the freeness, fairness, preciseness of our elections, this could be real trouble for our democracy,” Schumer said.

The anti- hacking programs  developed by CIS are offered free of charge, but the state and local governments need funding to implement the technology. Schumer is asking Congress to implement the election Security Act, sponsored by Minnesota Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobachar, which would, among other things, provide one billion dollars in grants to local boards of elections to harden their systems, and provide cybersecurity training for staff. Schumer says it should be included in the new federal budget, due this fall.

President Donald Trump has said he does not believe reports of Russian trying to hack into U.S. election systems, and he says if there was meddling, he does not think it influenced the outcome of the 2016 election.

Senator Schumer says he does not believe that the White House is taking potential threats seriously. Schumer points out that FBI director Christopher Wray has said he expects the Russians and others to step up efforts to try to interfere with the 2020 presidential elections.

“The military gets it, the intelligence agencies get it,” said Schumer. But the White House hasn’t risen to their level of alarm.” 

Schumer says New York is better prepared than many states to protect its elections from potential hackers. The state several years ago switched from the old style lever voting machines to paper ballots, which are essential if hacking occurs and a recount is necessary.

Schumer says some Republicans in Congress are against the additional funding, but he says it’s needed and it should not become a partisan issue.

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