The Department of Homeland Security is mulling whether or not it should declare the U.S. election system a “critical infrastructure,” a move that would give the federal government unprecedented power over the American system of voting.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said earlier in August that the DHS was concerned over potential threats to the U.S. election system. But Johnson’s remarks came well before the FBI announced this week that hackers had attacked two separate state election boards.
“The question remains whether the federal government will subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security.”
“We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process, is critical infrastructure like the financial sector, like the power grid,” Johnson said at a media conference hosted by the Christian Science Monitor earlier this month. “There’s a vital national interest in our election process, so I do think we need to consider whether it should be considered by my department and others critical infrastructure.”
If the U.S. election system is deemed to constitute a “critical infrastructure,” then the DHS could overrule powers given to local and state governments to mange their own elections under the Constitution. Critics warn the move would violate the 10th Amendment.
“The question remains whether the federal government will subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security,” Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp told Nextgov earlier this month.
Kemp also told Politico that he sees a “clear motivation from this White House” to jump on the opportunity to exert more federal control over a system that has been left to the states.
Even liberal Democrats were quick to throw cold water on the potential federal election takeover.
“Elections have always been run and organized by the states,” Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill told Politico. “And I think there has always been a fear that there would be federal intervention that would not recognize differences among the states.”