Schneider Leads Illinois House Delegation Letter Urging Federal Action to Improve Election Security
Today, Congressman Schneider led all 18 House members of the Illinois congressional delegation in a letter urging federal action to improve the state’s election security. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen, the Members requested a briefing on federal efforts to partner with Illinois election officials to defend against foreign interference.
“We remain deeply concerned about Russia and other foreign state actors meddling in our elections,” the letter states. “The federal government must continue to provide our Illinois election officials with the necessary support to protect its networks. Therefore, we request that your agency brief our Congressional delegation and other relevant officials, including the Chair and Vice Chair of the Illinois State Board of Elections, on these important matters.”
The letter follows the breach of the Illinois State Board of Elections in the months before the 2016 election, during which personal data on tens of thousands of voters, including names, addresses, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers was compromised. Earlier this month, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian agents for their hacking during the election. Illinois State Board of Elections officials believe they are the unnamed breached state referenced in the indictment.
“The Mueller indictments raises additional questions about the extent of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and our preparedness for when they try again,” said Schneider. “I’m encouraged that the entire Illinois House delegation is united in seeking answers to protect the integrity of our elections.”
In the letter, the members of the Illinois delegation also make clear they accept the findings of the U.S. intelligence community regarding Russia’s interference, writing, “[we] unequivocally acknowledge, and universally condemn, the attempts by the Russian Federation to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.”
In February 2018, Schneider met with the County Clerks for Cook and Lake Counties to discuss their efforts to improve election security.
Schneider joined with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) to introduce the bipartisan and bicameral DETER Act which seeks to deter future meddling by Russia and other foreign powers by instituting swift and automatic sanctions in response to future interference.
In response to questioning from Schneider in November 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted he had “not followed through” on reviewing how the United States can better defend against future Russian interference and committed to “personally take action to do so.”
Full letter text:
The Honorable Jefferson B. Sessions The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen
Attorney General Secretary
U.S. Department of Justice U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530 Washington, D.C. 20016
Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Nielsen:
We write to unequivocally acknowledge, and universally condemn, the attempts by the Russian Federation to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. As you know, Illinois has been a major target of these malign efforts—the Illinois State Board of Elections was specifically targeted and its voter registration database was breached. As members of the Illinois delegation, we remain committed to working alongside our state and local election officials to harden against future attacks. As such, we respectfully request a briefing from your agencies to discuss steps taken by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security since the last election to secure our voting networks, our current state of preparedness before November 2018, and the ways in which the federal government can further partner with states to address this issue.
Illinois election officials have taken this threat seriously and are diligently working alongside federal agencies to further strengthen our election infrastructure. After learning that Illinois voter registration records were breached by Russian agents in 2016, state officials immediately began working with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to secure the network. Since then, Illinois officials have continued cooperating with federal agencies to better understand the events that took place and to bolster its electronic databases. Additionally, all state election officials are now required to undergo annual cybersecurity training administered by the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology.
We remain deeply concerned about Russia and other foreign state actors meddling in our elections. The federal government must continue to provide our Illinois election officials with the necessary support to protect its networks. Therefore, we request that your agency brief our Congressional delegation and other relevant officials, including the Chair and Vice Chair of the Illinois State Board of Elections, on these important matters. We appreciate your thoughtful consideration of this request, and we look forward to your response.