Who Oversees the Elections Process in the U.S.?
THE ROLE OF CHIEF STATE ELECTION OFFICIALS:
Forty members of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) serve as their state's designated chief election official, overseeing the conduct of elections according to law. Ensuring the integrity of the voting process is central to this role, which includes cyber preparedness and contingency planning, as well as administrative and technical support for local election officials.
Governors and state CIOs/CISOs also play a part in election security, particularly where state emergency management or incident response planning is involved, and state legislators make policy and budget decisions that affect election office policies, staffing and resources.
ELECTIONS AS CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
As our nation's leaders repeatedly emphasized during the November 2016 presidential election cycle, state and local autonomy over elections is our greatest asset against malicious cyber attacks and systemic fraud. Our highly-decentralized, low-connectivity voting process has many built-in checks and balances to safeguard its structural integrity. Given the complexity of the process, election officials have unique insights on cybersecurity and elections. However, on January 6, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security established a new role for the federal government in securing elections by designating election infrastructure as critical infrastructure (DHS Overview of Critical Infrastructure).
Since the designation, state and local election officials and the federal government have worked diligently to create a productive relationship. NASS and its members have opposed the designation, raising questions and concerns about the potential federal overreach into the administration of elections – a state and local government responsibility. While NASS remains vigilant about possible federal overreach, we have worked together to ensure that the designation functions in a positive and effective way. Thus, we have chosen to actively focus on improving communication between the states and the federal government to achieve our shared goal of securing elections. In particular, we have utilized the Election Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council (EIS-GCC), to open communications channels and guide future collaborative election security endeavors.
- Hon. Maggie Toulouse Oliver Testimony for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (July 2018)
- Hon. Connie Lawson's Testimony for the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration regarding Election Preparations (June 2018)
- Hon. Jim Condos' Testimony for the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration regarding Election Preparations (June 2018)
- Hon. Jim Condos' Testimony at U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Hearing on Election Security (March 2018)
- Hon. Tom Schedler's Testimony at Joint Hearing on Cybersecurity of Voting Machines (November 2017)
RESOURCES and BRIEFINGS:
- U.S. Election Assistance Critical Infrastructure Information
- National Conference of State Legislatures 2018 Cybersecurity Legislation Tracker
- DHS State Notifications and State Public Statements (September 2017)
- NASS Letter to Congressional Task Force on Election Security (August 2017)
- Securing Future Elections Against Cyber Threats (July 2017)
- NASS Letter Urgent Items DHS Sec Kelly (July 2017)
- NASS Resolution Reaffirming Commitment to Strengthening Elections (July 2017)
- NASS Report on State Laws & Practices for the Emergency Management of Elections (April 2017)
- Facts and Findings on Cybersecurity and Foreign Targeting of the 2016 U.S. Elections (March 2017)
- NASS Resolution Opposing the Designation of Elections as Critical Infrastructure (February 2017)
- NASS Statement on Critical Infrastructure Designation for Elections (January 2017)
- Congressional Leadership Letter (September 2016)
RELATED: NASS President Op-Ed: States Are Working to Protect Your Votes (October 2018) | NASS President Op-Ed: States are Diligently Preparing for Midterm Cyber Threats (July 2018) | EIS-GCC: An Open Letter to American Voters (March 2018) | NASS Letter to Congress: Proactive Election Cybersecurity Initiatives by Secretaries of State (October 2017) | Open Letter to Congress from the Nation's Secretaries of State: Let's Work Together to Share the Facts About Cybersecurity and Our Elections (September 2016)