- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2019

Senators easily passed a bill Wednesday that would update the government’s longstanding anti-hacking law to cover attacks waged against voting machines used in federal elections.

The Senate approved the Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act by unanimous consent, putting pressure on the House to consider a companion bill currently pending on Capitol Hill.

Introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, the bill would amend the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA, to prohibit interference with voting systems “used for the management, support or administration of a federal election.”

The CFAA currently makes it a crime to use a “protected computer” without authorized access or in a manner that exceeds authorized access, but a report released last year by the Department of Justice’s Cyber Task Force determined that the law “does not prohibit the act of hacking a voting machine in many common situations.”

“In general, the CFAA only prohibits hacking computers that are connected to the Internet (or that meet other narrow criteria for protection). In many conceivable situations, electronic voting machines will not meet those criteria, as they are typically kept off the Internet,” the Justice Department determined.



Mr. Blumenthal’s bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, and is among several legislative proposals introduced in response to hackers targeting the U.S. electoral process during the 2016 presidential race.

Russian government hackers attacked U.S. political parties and election infrastructure during a state-sponsored interference campaign waged during the 2016 race, according to federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

In addition to computers associated with the Democratic National Committee and the party’s candidate, Hillary Clinton, the Russian effort targeted voting systems in several states and resulted in at least a couple Florida counties having their computers compromised, lawmakers briefed by the FBI about the breaches said afterward.

“Our legislation to protect voting machines will better equip the Department of Justice to fight back against hackers that intend to interfere with our election,” Mr. Blumenthal said when the Senate bill was introduced in May.

An identical version of the bill was introduced in the House the following month by Rep. John Ratcliffe, Texas Republican. That bill currently has seven co-sponsors — four Democrats and three Republicans — and was referred last month to the House Judiciary Committee.

“It’s not enough to speak out against hacking our voting systems, but then do nothing to actively deter it. We must ensure that those who attempt to interfere in our elections will face strict punishment for their actions. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s about protecting each American’s right to vote and have their vote count,” Mr. Ratcliffe said previously.

Russia has denied meddling in the 2016 election. Republicans and Democrats briefed last week by senior members of President Trump’s administration said afterward that the government is aware of “ongoing” threats to next year’s race.

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