State election officials from across the country have called on President Trump to revoke an order, signed by former President Obama, declaring election systems “critical infrastructure.”
The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), which includes election officials from every state and territory, passed a resolution calling on President Donald Trump to overturn the designation at the organization’s winter meeting held over the weekend.
The resolution, passed by voice vote along party lines, stated the organization “opposes the designation of elections as critical infrastructure.”
Most states grant authority over elections to their respective Secretaries of State, while some cede that authority to their lieutenant governors.
Following allegations of Russian hacking during the election, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson declared state and local elections “critical infrastructure,” which “allows for information to be withheld from the public when state, local and private partners meet to discuss election infrastructure security – potentially injecting secrecy into an election process that’s traditionally and expressly a transparent process,” according to a letter from Johnson obtained by the Associated Press.
“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,” he said at the time. “Particularly in these times, this designation is simply the right and obvious thing to do.”
Despite concerns raised by DHS that Russians were attempting to hack state elections in order to sway the election for Donald Trump, the only evidence of election hacking originated from DHS itself.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp sent a letter to Johnson immediately after the election indicating his state traced an attempt to break the Secretary of State’s firewall back to an IP address at the DHS southwest office.
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney noted his state also detected an attempt by DHS to penetrate the state’s election website around the time of the election.
“I don’t know what they penetrated, or what they tried, I just know their IP address showed up as hitting our website,” Denney told the Idaho Post Register. “I don’t know what they were doing.”
“It would have been nice if they had told us.”
Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a Republican and the immediate past-president of the NASS, said the Obama administration “stonewalled” after receiving repeated requests for clarification on the ramifications of the designation.
“The biggest difficulty was the stonewalling from the previous administration. They just don’t seem to give us any answers to our repeated requests,” Schedler told The Daily Caller.
Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, a Democrat and current president of the NASS, echoed those concerns.
“We were continually asking them ‘what does this mean, what will it cover, what are the implications?’ And we sort of never got anything back,” Merrill said.
General John Kelly, the current Secretary of Homeland Security, originally declared his opposition to the federal declaration during his confirmation hearings, suggesting it “appears to be a political question beyond the scope of DHS’ current legislative cyber mandates.”
Despite his initial comment, Kelly apparently reversed his opinion on February 7, saying “I would argue that, yes, we should keep that (designation) in place.”