California Secretary of State Alex Padilla was testifying today in Washington, D.C., about election security, part of a hearing called “Defending Our Democracy: Building Partnerships to Protect America’s Election.”
The hearing was called by the House Committee on Homeland Security as one in a series of hearings that the new House Democratic majority is holding on H.R. 1, the For the People Act.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), explained the purpose of the hearing:
“Election security should not be a partisan issue, but Congress has done far too little to prevent foreign election meddling after Russia interfered in the 2016 election,” Thompson said. "Leading on this issue for the past two years, Democrats have promised the American people that securing our voting systems and democratic institutions would continue to be a priority this Congress. Holding oversight hearings on potential legislation is making good on this promise. The time to act is now. The 2020 election season has already begun. The American public deserve to be fully confident in the security and integrity of our elections.”
Testifying in the same hearing as Padilla will be:
— Christopher C. Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
— Thomas Hicks, commissioner on the U.S. Election Assistance
— Noah Praetz, director of elections in Cook County, Ill.;
— Jake Braun, executive director of the Cyber Policy Initiative;
— John Merrill, Alabama's secretary of state.
In an interview Tuesday with the Los Angeles Times, Padilla was asked about election security in California.
"I like to think we're at least a little better than we were in 2016, for no other reason than awareness is significantly elevated," he said.
"Marginally, $380 million was appropriated by Congress last year for cybersecurity grants to states. California's share was $34 million that we've been able to utilize. ... We still need more and consistent investment in elections infrastructure and security."
And what would he spend it on?
"Upgrading or replacing systems. In California and throughout the country, the vast majority of what's out there now was purchased with the last round of [Help America Vote Act] dollars. You're talking about investments 15, 17 years ago, so you're looking at 20-plus-year-old technology," Padilla told the Times. "You wouldn't settle for that in your smartphone. But that's what we have in the election world. ... You cannot underestimate cyber training, training, training. You can have the best encryption, firewalls, all the tools you want. But if one member of our staff clicks on a link from a long-lost uncle who just won the lottery and wants to transfer money, it's all compromised."
Padilla is one of two California officials testifying today in the capital.
The other is Treasurer Fiona Ma, who was scheduled to testify today before the House Financial Services Committee about the need to enhance banking services for those engaged in the commercial cannabis industry.
The hearing will cover the challenges that cannabis businesses face in securing accounts and credit lines from banks that are wary of taking on clients with ties to a federally banned substance. Committee members will hear from Ma, a drug policy reform organization, a medical cannabis dispensary and individuals representing financial institutions.