DHS Designates Election Infrastructure As “Critical”

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Following Friday’s declassification of a U.S. Intelligence Report that alleges Russia tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Homeland Security declared U.S. elections infrastructure as “critical infrastructure.”

“I have determined that election infrastructure in this country should be designated as a subsector of the existing Government Facilities critical infrastructure sector. Given the vital role elections play in this country, it is clear that certain systems and assets of election infrastructure meet the definition of critical infrastructure, in fact and in law,” Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a statement released today.

This designation allows the federal government to provide “cybersecurity assistance and protections” to storage facilities, polling places, centralized vote tabulation locations used to support the election process, voter registration databases, voting machines, and other systems used to manage the election process.

The Hill reports that this designation has faced criticism in the past.

Before the election, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp argued against designating the elections a critical infrastructure, arguing that states can make more nimble choices for their own communities without assistance from the federal government.

“Designating voting systems or any other election system as critical infrastructure would be a vast federal overreach, the cost of which would not equally improve the security of elections in the United States,” Kemp wrote in an email to Nextgov in August.

Johnson responded to this criticism in this statement:

“Prior to reaching this determination, my staff and I consulted many state and local election officials; I am aware that many of them are opposed to this designation. It is important to stress what this designation does and does not mean. This designation does not mean a federal takeover, regulation, oversight or intrusion concerning elections in this country. This designation does nothing to change the role state and local governments have in administering and running elections.”

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