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Spanberger Introduces Legislation to Preserve Integrity of U.S. Elections, Prevent Foreign Interference in the Democratic Process

Bill Would Support Federal, State, & Local Efforts to Improve Election Security by Assessing Current Threats to Election Infrastructure, Sharing Findings

Washington, February 28, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today introduced legislation that would help strengthen the integrity of U.S. elections and mitigate future foreign threats to U.S. election infrastructure.  

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Russian intelligence services targeted election systems in at least 21 states leading up to the 2016 presidential election. And according to a January 2017 assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, these Russian agents obtained access to the networks of multiple state and local electoral boards. While these attacks did not directly impact vote-tallying, these hostile cyberattacks reportedly led to stolen voter records, scanned networks, and breached voter registration databases—and they were deliberate attempts to undermine the integrity of the electoral process.

Spanberger’s bill would require a federal assessment of the scope of potential threats to the security of America’s election systems, including cyber, terror, and state actor threats. Additionally, the legislation would direct the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and DHS to update federal and state officials on possible vulnerabilities—and to provide recommendations on how best to stop these threats.

“Our elections are the foundation to our democracy, and if our voting infrastructure is compromised or attacked, the entire integrity of our electoral system could fall into question. During a time marked by an uptick in hostile attacks against election systems across the globe, it is critical that U.S. election officials have accurate and up-to-date information about the real threats to our election security. That was especially clear following Russia’s interference in the 2016 election,” said Spanberger. “This bill would tackle foreign threats to our election infrastructure by using the invaluable expertise of public servants to strengthen the security of federal and state election systems. As a former CIA case officer, I greatly appreciate the objective and nonpartisan work of the national security and intelligence communities, and this legislation would take the necessary steps to use their vital resources to build resiliency in election systems across the country.”

Specifically, Spanberger’s Strengthening Elections through Intelligence Act would direct the Director of National Intelligence to submit an assessment of elections threats to Congress, as well as the chief election official in each U.S. state. This report would need to be submitted to these officials no later than six months before a general election, and it would be crafted in consultation with DHS and the Election Assistance Commission to provide accurate and timely information to federal and state officials ahead of a November election.

This legislation builds on Spanberger’s efforts to prevent foreign influence in the U.S. democratic process. Last month, she helped introduce a bill that would prevent foreign-owned corporations from funneling money into U.S. elections. To close a foreign spending loophole, the bill would apply the ban on contributions by foreign actors to domestic corporations, limited liability corporations, and partnerships that are foreign-controlled, foreign-influenced, and foreign-owned.

Background

Last month, Spanberger was selected to serve as a member of two key subcommittees on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee—the Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment Subcommittee and the Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation Subcommittee. And earlier this month, she was selected to serve as Vice-Chair of the Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment Subcommittee. As part of the Subcommittee’s work, she will be tasked with reviewing ways to counteract Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

A former case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency and a former federal agent, Spanberger represents Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, which contains all or portions of Amelia, Chesterfield, Culpeper, Goochland, Henrico, Louisa, Nottoway, Orange, Powhatan, and Spotsylvania counties in Central Virginia.

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