Follows Warning from FBI that States Should Protect their Systems
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nia H. Gill that seeks assurances from the secretary of state – the state’s chief election official – that New Jersey’s election system is protected against hacking was approved today by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee. The action follows a warning from FBI Director James B. Comey yesterday that states should work with federal authorities to protect their systems.
“The ongoing attempts by hackers to gain access to voter systems across the country raise serious concerns about the security of our election system,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “We have to work proactively to address any potential weaknesses in the state’s electoral system that would leave it vulnerable to a cyber-attack. We are asking the secretary of state to provide us with information about what steps are being taken to ensure the system is protected.”
Speaking before a House committee yesterday, FBI Director James Comey said voter registration databases in states across the United States have continued to come under cyber assault by hackers. This follows the hacking of a voter registration database in Illinois and the hacking theft of a user name and password of an election official in Arizona over the summer by suspected foreign entities. Comey said the bureau is urging states to make contact with the Department of Homeland Security “to make sure that their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on.”
On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that 18 states have taken up his agency’s offer to help improve cyber security for their election systems, in the wake of suspected breaches blamed on Russian hackers, according to a CNN report.
“Our election process is the foundation of our democracy, and the systems by which it runs must be properly protected,” said Senator Gill. “Given the reported and continued attempts to hack state systems, it is clear that the threat to our voter registration databases is real. Working with federal authorities to ensure the system is safeguarded is a basic step we can take to better protect our state, but it is also our responsibility.”
The Joint Resolution (SJR-78) urges the Secretary of State, as the Chief Election Official, to communicate with the Legislature and the public about the measures currently in place to protect our electoral system, and to reassure the citizens of this State that our procedures and systems are safe and protected from foreign hackers and other intrusions.
The committee approved it by a vote of 3-1. It next heads to the full Senate for consideration.