ATLANTA – The private companies that make voting equipment and build and maintain voter registration databases lack any meaningful federal oversight despite the crucial role they play in U.S. elections, leaving the nation's electoral process vulnerable to attack, according to a new report.
The Brennan Center for Justice on Tuesday issued the report, which calls on Congress to establish a framework for federal certification of election vendors. The authors say this could be established as a voluntary program similar to how voting machines are certified, with incentives for state and local election officials to use vendors that have completed the process. It would include the establishment of federal standards and the ability for federal officials to monitor compliance and address any violations.
The report's co-author Lawrence Norden acknowledged it was too late for any of this to happen in time for the 2020 presidential election.
“Even if (Congress) had the will, it couldn't be passed in time,” said Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center. “This is another security vulnerability that Congress hasn't addressed.”
Norden said congressional inaction has increased the pressure on state and local election officials to secure their voting systems and have measures in place should something go wrong. Although Congress sent $380 million to states last year for election security, Norden said it was a “drop in the bucket” of what is needed as state and local election officials look to fund the replacement of outdated and insecure voting systems, increase cybersecurity personnel and add security upgrades.
The Brennan Center, which is based at New York University School of Law, said the most logical agency to handle federal oversight of election vendors would be the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. But that agency has been hobbled by reduced federal funding and leadership vacancies.
Although two commissioners were added this year, the agency is searching for a new executive director and general counsel.