In the wake of Russia’s attempts to hack the U.S. election, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Friday declared the country’s elections systems to be “critical infrastructure,” entitling it to heightened federal assistance and protections.
Mr. Johnson said the declaration does not amount to a federal takeover of elections, but does give federal officials more latitude to have “full and frank discussions with key stakeholders” about areas that the administration deems are failing.
“Particularly in these times, this designation is simply the right and obvious thing to do,” he said in a statement Friday afternoon, just hours after the intelligence community released a report accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin and top Moscow leaders of attempting to sink Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and boost President-elect Donald Trump.
Mr. Johnson said the new designation applies to both government and non-government entities, and includes polling places, ballot storage and counting facilities, and voter registration databases.
Mr. Johnson said states and localities must still request assistance from the federal government when they want help with protecting their elections systems.