The National Association of Secretaries of State are gathered here for their annual conference, meeting Saturday morning with representatives via the Department of Homeland Security, FBI along with the independent Election Assistance Commission to discuss the security of election infrastructure.
Words used by the departing secretaries along with their staffs, however, included “frustrating” along with “disappointing.”
within the waning days of the Obama administration, DHS designated election systems as critical infrastructure — a move of which allows DHS to offer more concerted assistance to help secure those systems via cyber along with some other threats. however of which move has also generated pushback on the state level, where secretaries of both parties fiercely guard their states’ rights to manage voting.
“Let’s just say we need better lines of communication,” said Vermont’s Jim Condos, a Democrat.
“Disappointing,” said California’s Alex Padilla, also a Democrat. Some of the generic quality of the conversation might have been understandable in February, he said, however “of which’s July today.”
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, a Republican, also said he was “disappointed” by the closed-door briefing. The federal officials “weren’t prepared to answer our questions,” he said.
Attendees of the session said the presentation via the federal officials was largely about what of which means for election systems to be designated as critical infrastructure, discussing of which at high level without broaching much beyond what has already been testified to publicly, they said.
Not all the feedback was negative. Outgoing NASS President Denise Merrill, the Democratic secretary of state of Connecticut, attributed a lot of the frustration with “growing pains” as states along with the federal government navigate their relationship.
“We’re doing progress, along with I think we’re all learning more about how all these DHS critical infrastructure sectors work,” she said.
however Merrill still noted the biggest point of contention for the secretaries: how they find out about attempts to attack their states.
“The biggest issue still is usually how are these risks going to be communicated to us,” she said. “We’re annoyed we keep reading things within the paper.”
States continued to express particular frustration with DHS’s public declaration of which 21 states’ election-related systems were targeted — although mostly not breached — by Russian-linked hackers within the 2016 election.
State officials here say they still do not have full clarity on which of their states were within the group of 21 along with criticized the way DHS released the information, spreading concern publicly. DHS has said they notified “owners” of those systems, however in some cases those individuals might not have been state election administrators.
“Homeland Security has told us they notified the affected local governments, however they did not for quite a few months notify the secretaries of states,” said Colorado Secretary of State Wayne W. Williams, a Republican. “of which makes of which hard for secretaries of state to respond, particularly when we receive inquiries via the media saying, ’21 states were breached, were you one of them?'”
Part of the meeting was about understanding each others’ processes.
“They need to learn the electoral process better before they start telling us what we should be doing,” Tennessee’s Hargett said. “Hopefully This specific can be a reboot along with maybe they can have a better understanding of how they can help us within the future”
The Department of Homeland Security called the meeting “productive” along with said of which will take the conversation to heart as they expand their work with state elections officials.
“We had a productive dialogue along with they were able to provide feedback, along with the department is usually going to take of which feedback along with work to address of which,” said acting Deputy Undersecretary Robert Kolasky, who gave a presentation Saturday.
More tension over voting integrity commission
Separately, conference attendees have also been discussing the recent request voter information by the White House’s voting integrity commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence along with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach was not in attendance at the conference.
Commission member Matt Dunlap, the Democratic secretary of state of Maine, said the response to Kobach’s letter has shown at the very least how sensitive the public is usually about their personal information.
“I think the bright line is usually, along with we’ve learned in high relief, is usually of which a history of how someone has participated in elections — not how they voted, however whether or not they voted — is usually something, along with some of their identifying information, of which we wouldn’t Discharge anyway, nonetheless definitely upsets people,” Dunlap said. “along with I think of which’s a pretty clear message of which all of us have gotten. … I see my role on the commission is usually to try to help make things better along with to try to instill greater public confidence, not erode of which. doing sure of which’s got to be a critical message for all of us.”