Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today called for swift passage of legislation to ensure elections are fair, transparent and free from foreign influence. Governor Cuomo and U.S. Senator Klobuchar have proposed complementary legislation in New York State and the United States Congress to mandate transparency in political advertising, require online platforms to maintain an archive of political ads, and protect elections from foreign influence.
The Governor's FY 2019 Executive Budget also includes $5 million to create an Election Cyber Security Support Toolkit and strengthen statewide cyber security protections, as well as $7 million to improve access to voting across the state by instituting early voting as well as automatic and same-day voter registration.
"Hacking violations are a fundamental crisis that goes to the bedrock of our democracy," Governor Cuomo said. "This legislation cracks down on the toxic cocktail of social media explosion, lack of protection and regulation and targeting in social media to protect the integrity of our elections once and for all."
Senator Klobuchar said, "We know Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election and that they're working to do it again. Doing nothing is not an option, that's why I'm working hard in Congress on bipartisan legislation--the Honest Ads Act and the Secure Elections Act--to ensure future elections are secure and free from foreign influence, and that's why Governor Cuomo's work to protect election security is so important. There are just 242 days until the next election, we do not have time to wait."
Strengthen Election Infrastructure
Governor Cuomo has proposed $5 million in the FY 2019 Executive Budget to implement a four-pronged strategy to further strengthen cyber protections for New York's election infrastructure:
Create an Election Support Center
The Election Support Center will leverage subject matter experts at the State Office of Information Technology Services, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Department of Motor Vehicles, State Police, the State Intelligence Center, the Executive Chamber and the State Board of Elections, to provide technical expertise, training, and cyber security best practices to County Boards of Election. The Election Support Center will also work collaboratively with the State Board of Elections to ensure that timely and actionable threat intelligence is communicated to local election officials.
Develop an Election Cyber Security Support Toolkit
Governor Cuomo will use the proposed funding to create an Election Cyber Security Support Toolkit that will be available to State and County Boards of Election. The Election Cyber Security Support Toolkit will ensure that New York's Boards of Elections have access to threat mitigation tools such as network monitoring services, secure software and hardware products, Distributed Denial of Service defenses for election websites, and change-detection software to monitor all changes to voter databases ensuring inconsistencies and discrepancies are identified, investigated and corrected in a timely manner. This toolkit will be created and updated annually by the agencies in the Election Support Center and distributed to County Boards of Election through the State Board of Elections.
Provide Cyber Risk Vulnerability Assessments for the State and County Boards of Elections
The Office of Information Technology Services will provide vulnerability assessments to ensure election officials understand their current cyber security posture and can take the appropriate steps to remediate potential vulnerabilities. In addition, the state will offer a free hosted Disaster Recovery service to ensure all election and voter data can be recovered and restored in the event of a cyber disruption.
Require County Boards of Election to Report Data Breaches to State Authorities
To further protect the integrity of our elections, County Boards of Elections would be required to notify the State Board of Elections and the State Police whenever there is a data breach that could potentially expose private voter or election information. The State Board would also be required to issue an annual New York Election Security Report to the Executive and Legislature outlining the security landscape and actions being taken to protect elections infrastructure and voter information.
Expand Access to Voting: $7 Million for Early Voting and Same Day and Automatic Voter Registration
In addition, the Democracy Agenda includes $7 million in the FY 2019 Executive Budget to fund voting reforms, including early voting across the state. This funding will enable New York counties to offer early voting in the 12 days leading up to Election Day.
To modernize the voter registration process, automatic voter registration will streamline state services by automatically sending voters' information from relevant agencies application directly to the County Board of Elections. New Yorkers who do not wish to register to vote can simply check an "opt out" box. Additionally, same-day voter registration will allow New Yorkers to register and vote on the same day so that onerous and counter-intuitive registration deadlines do not prevent New Yorkers from having the opportunity to participate in the electoral process.
Increase Transparency of Online Political Advertisements and Protect Against Foreign Influence
To increase transparency of online political advertisements and protect against foreign influence, the Governor has advanced legislation to expand New York State's definition of political communication to include paid internet and digital advertisements, require digital platforms to maintain a public file of all political advertisements purchased by a person or group for publication on the platform and require online platforms verify that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.
U.S. Senator Klobuchar has also introduced legislation at the federal level to regulate online advertising for federal elections, and Facebook and Twitter have shown strong corporate social responsibility in adopting new policies to ensure transparency and retention of political advertising. The Governor's legislation will codify those practices into New York law and ensure that all social media platforms, and other states, adopt similar policies.