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Opinion | Election security is national security

Let’s make sure our election system remains the envy of the free world.

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As a member of the Alabama House of Representatives, I am proud to serve my constituents in Montgomery and work with my colleagues to accomplish great things for families and businesses across District 38 and in communities throughout the state. That includes delivering education resources, helping get Alabamians back to work, and supporting vital public services.

With one of the biggest elections of our lifetimes quickly approaching, one of the most essential public services our government can help provide—the administration of our local, state, and federal elections—is once again in the national spotlight. 

It’s no secret that I am a proud conservative who believes in reducing government spending, but I also believe that the most important duty of the federal government is bolstering our national security. Enacting adequate funding to protect and strengthen election security is not a luxury, but a necessity in today’s political and technological world.

With that commitment to secure elections in mind, I was discouraged by the insufficient resources Congress dedicated to election security as part of their last-minute spending deal last week. Considering that the federal funding levels for election security in fiscal years 2018 and 2020 ranged anywhere from $380 to $425 million, the $55 million that was enacted for fiscal year 2024 is not going to get the job done.

Unfortunately, this figure falls far short of what local, state, and county election workers and offices need to support our election infrastructure and ensure safety and security at the polls. Without proper federal investment, election officials throughout Alabama and across the country will not be able to meet their most basic necessities, including lockable doors, high-speed internet access, sufficient staff, and in some cases even electricity and heat. The situation is more dire when you consider the more advanced needs, like upgraded computers that are compatible with current operating systems.

Leaving our election officials in the lurch when it comes to making the investments necessary to strengthen America’s election infrastructure is not only a disservice to these hardworking public servants, but it also risks leaving our country exposed to a range of national security threats. As we have seen in recent years, America’s election systems are increasingly being targeted by a growing range of cyber-attacks from foreign adversaries. 

That is why the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officially designated, and has recognized, election infrastructure as part of our nation’s critical infrastructure since 2017. Just a few years later, in 2020, the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a strategic plan that highlights the enhanced threats to election security and underscores the need for additional resources to counter those threats and keep our elections safe and secure.

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The bottom line is: Election security is national security. Lawmakers in Congress need to recognize the invaluable role the federal government plays in bolstering our election system and provide the $400 million that election officials across the U.S. need to protect and strengthen our election system. This level of investment would help Alabama and other states ensure that the bedrock of our democratic system is not diminished by bad actors wishing to do us harm or by something as preventable as a wayward rodent.

We’re better than that. Let’s make sure our election system remains the envy of the free world.

Debbie Wood is a member of the Alabama House of Representatives, where she represents Alabama State House District 38.

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