There is a push in some quarters to have a larger role for the Department of Homeland Security in our elections. Last Friday, once again, news came out that should cause all to pause in consideration of such an idea.
The Department of Homeland Security said earlier this year that it had evidence of Russian activity in 21 states, but it failed to inform individual states whether they were among those targeted. Instead, DHS authorities say they told those who had "ownership" of the systems — which in some cases were private vendors or local election offices.
To be clear, the Trump Administration Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been better than the Obama Administration DHS. At least they are telling people what is happening.
"Most importantly, DHS acknowledged that they had contacted the wrong people at the state level and will rectify that going forward by communicating with each state's chief election officials," says [National Association of Secretaries of States] spokesman Stephen Reed. "Finally finding out this information from DHS allows the chief elections officials to move forward on this matter."
However, this whole process calls into question and continues to raise concerns about what a future DHS may do. It bears remembering that the Obama DHS when considering how to counter a Russian hacking threat drew up plans that included sending armed law enforcement agents to polling places. As Time magazine reported earlier this year:
President Obama’s White House quietly produced a plan in October to counter a possible Election Day cyber attack that included extraordinary measures like sending armed federal law enforcement agents to polling places, mobilizing components of the military and launching counter-propaganda efforts.
While all can agree that DHS is doing better, serious concerns remain about a larger role in elections for DHS going forward, such as with the designation of election systems as critical infrastructure.