It seems President Obama could not let go of the fact his sidekick—Hillary Clinton—did not win the election. Rather than act like a grown man following the Democrats loss in the election, he enacted several ludicrous policy changes in a fit akin to a toddler throwing a tantrum. The first thing Obama did after the election was talk to Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Under outgoing President Barack Obama, Johnson declared that American voting machines, voter registration databases, vote tabulation locations and polling places will be considered “critical infrastructure” going forward from a federal perspective.
Johnson himself tried to quell those that spoke out against the obvious biased action by saying, “this designation DOES NOT mean a federal takeover, regulation, oversight or intrusion concerning elections in the country.”
However, in light of the fake “Russian hacking” scandal of the recent presidential election, Johnson felt making this declaration was “simply the right and obvious thing to do.” Johnson also emphasized the need to improve cybersecurity for all state election systems.
In fact, it was Johnson’s DHS that originally alleged that multiple state election systems had been breached by foreign actors that accessed data and voter registration files. This stood somewhat in opposition to statements by the Obama administration, which claimed that no state voter registrations or actual votes had been tampered with.
So essentially, DHS was accusing hackers of accessing data that was already publicly available elsewhere. Adding to the finger pointing were accusations made by Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp that the DHS itself had attempted to breach his state’s election systems.
It should be noted that the Constitution prescribes the choice of time, place and manner of elections to the States, rather than to federal authorities. Of course, federal “assistance” is not prohibited by the Constitution, but even Secretary Johnson acknowledged that acceptance of “all the benefits and protections” the government can offer is voluntary.
Still, election officials and academics have been wondering aloud about the parameters of such “assistance.” Some of those officials are at the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an independent agency of the government charged with certifying voting equipment and accrediting voting system test labs. EAC Commissioner Christy McCormack asked rhetorically,
[Sec. Johnson] told the [state] Secretaries [of State] that their participation is “voluntary,” but he has now also made clear that if the states don’t “volunteer, they will not be able to receive information from DHS to secure their own systems.”
This begs the question — if they “volunteer,” does that allow DHS to invade ALL of their “information, capabilities, physical assets, and technologies” in order to get the information that may be known by DHS and the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC)?
Will [the states] be able to ask the Federal Government to leave? Will they be required to provide uniformity or consistency in order to participate in DHS’s efforts? Will DHS or other Federal agencies require states to conform to a new security standard?
If DHS were truly only concerned with the security of these elections, they would simply provide these resources without the declaration or require states to “volunteer” before any information or resources will be shared.
McCormack is concerned that the government could be taking a “carrot-and-stick” approach — pushing states to accept federal “help” and allowing the government to access their systems or face up to it withholding information about foreign hacking threats.
McCormack claims states are not being told how much autonomy they would still have once the government enters state systems. She’s also concerned that the current transparency of state election data could change under DHS authority. And finally, she pointed out the fact that under DHS, election enforcement could become partisan and politicized.
Since Secretary Johnson made his announcement, a number of states have opposed the DHS designation because they feel it could give the federal government too much power. In 2013, a Supreme Court case, Shelby County vs. Holder, determined that many southern states, which previously were unable to change how they performed elections, are now able to have much more autonomy from the Feds.
In fact, just administering uniform standards across multiple states and locales would be a nearly impossible task based on how things stand currently. There are no less than 50 official voter registration databases that different state agencies already use, in addition to hundreds of others which take data from places like Registries of Motor Vehicles.
In many jurisdictions, responsibility for elections is split between municipal and county offices. Sign-in procedures vary, as do voting machines and voting methods. Even if the Feds sought to take over all state-run elections, they would have to bring in brand-new equipment if they wanted to run everything the same way. A “one-size-fits-all” plan from DHS would likely encounter extreme pushback from state agencies.
Finally, it should be noted that the DHS announcements came from Obama appointee Johnson, who’s has since been replaced by retired Marine General John Kelly. It’s possible that Obama administration’s plans for DHS to interfere in elections will be torpedoed under the Trump administration, but nothing of the sorts has happened yet.
Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted probably said it best when he stated, “Whether it’s a Homeland Security secretary appointed under President Obama or one appointed under President Trump, I don’t want the federal government to have authority to invite themselves into our elections process in Ohio or any other state without our permission.”
~ Liberty Planet