WASHINGTON – The CEOs from the three biggest voting systems companies appeared before the House Administration Committee on Thursday as Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren said current voting technologies are vulnerable to foreign hackers whose attacks pose serious threats to democracy.
“Election security is about upholding a democracy of, by and for the people—the American people, be they Republican, Democratic, third party,” the California Democrat said in her opening statement. “Our democracy is resilient, but it relies on everyone having their vote counted as cast.”
Thursday’s meeting came in the wake of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee last July, when he passionately cautioned Congress to be aware of sustained Russian efforts to influence American elections.
The leaders of companies that supply at least 80% of the country’s voting system manufacturing market were witnesses at the hearing, including Tom Burt, CEO of Election Systems & Software, Julie Mathis, CEO of Hart InterCivic and John Poulos, CEO of Dominion Voting Systems.
All three companies are confident in the amount of resources they devote to ensuring there is no corruption or nefarious behavior interfering with their systems. However, they are still looking for ways to improve efforts, partnering with federal agencies to better mitigate risk.
“Our effort I can honestly say is as strong as we are capable of,” Burt said.
Georgetown University law professor Matt Blazesaid despite the best efforts of major companies, voting equipment can be “easily compromised” without adequate safeguards outside of the voting systems.
“It’s ultimately a reflection of the nature of complex software,” Blaze said. “It’s simply beyond the state of the art to build software systems that can viably withstand targeted attack by a determined adversary in this kind of an environment. The vulnerabilities are real.”
Several House Administration Committee members expressed concern about voting machine supply chains. The CEOs of the voting machine companies said that it is not possible to build machines entirely from U.S. products. All three companies use materials from China. A December 2019 study by Interos, a supply-chain monitoring company, showed that one fifth of voting machine parts came from companies based in China.
“Do you see why that concerns all of us up here?” said Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, the top Republican on the committee. “Because we have a global supply chain, you’re not able to comprehend a machine built right now with completely U.S. products.”
The CEOs of the companies expressed a willingness to work with the federal government to improve the security of their systems. Mathis said she is open to feedback from the Department of Homeland Security to understand capabilities and opportunities to source alternative parts.
But committee members noted that as privately owned companies, they don’t need to report some important financial information such as their profit margins.
“I believe it is in the public interest for Congress to better understand who could financially benefit from the administration of our elections,” Lofgren said.