State Election Officials Endorse Federal Cyber Navigators Bill

A bill introduced earlier this month to enhance IT support for local election officials received praise from a couple of state elections chiefs who testified on August 28 at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on election security issues.

The Cyber Navigators Act, H.R. 8011, would provide additional election-specific IT support to provide help monitoring systems and digesting data from cybersecurity information sharing and analysis centers (ISACs), said Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., one of the bill’s cosponsors, during the hearing. The bill authorizes a grant program to enable state and local governments to hire cybersecurity professionals.

“I complete support the concept of cyber navigators,” said Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat.

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“It sounds like a really great idea,” said Kentucky’s Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican.

The idea for the bill originated from a series of roundtables Rep. Katko held between the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and local election officials in New York earlier in the year.

One part-time employee with the Board of Elections in New York’s Oswego County said that she received 1,672 directives from the ISAC just last year, according to Rep. Katko, who serves as top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity subcommittee.

“What we learned from the roundtables is that the Election ISACs inundate the local board of elections,” Rep. Katko said. “They’re not always able to appropriately filter and appreciate the importance of those directives.”

Kentucky’s Secretary of State Adams concurred. “I do know the ISACs tend to send out a lot of information,” he said.

“I ask you both to take a look at this bill,” asked Rep. Katko the state officials. “Give me your thoughts because it’s picking up steam and I really want to try to help.”

Rep. Katko co-sponsored the legislation with Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y. The bill does not appear to have a companion measure in the Senate.

Dwight Weingarten
About Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.