WASHINGTON Feb 7 Homeland Security Secretary
John Kelly said on Tuesday he would not seek to reverse a
decision made in the Obama administration's final days to
designate U.S. election systems as critical infrastructure,
despite concerns from some conservative states that the change
amounted to a federal takeover.
"I believe we should help all of the states ... to make sure
that their systems are protected in future elections," Kelly
told a congressional panel in response to a question from
Democratic U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond.
"I would argue that, yes, we should keep that in place."
In January, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
announced it had determined state election systems should be
considered critical infrastructure by the federal government.
The decision followed a 2016 presidential campaign marred by
cyber attacks that U.S. intelligence agencies concluded were
carried out by Russia in order to help now-President Donald
U.S. officials determined hackers targeted more than 20
states' voter registration systems during the election but that
there was no evidence that tallies were altered when ballots
were cast on Nov. 8.
Designation as critical infrastructure makes voting machines
and related equipment - such as polling places, voter
registration databases and vote storage facilities - eligible to
receive prioritized cyber security assistance from DHS.
Other sectors considered critical infrastructure include
communication and transportation systems, the banking industry
and the energy grid.
Some Republican-controlled states such as Georgia had argued
against the change, saying elections in the United States have
always been carried out by state and local officials and that
the federal government should not play a direct role in them.
(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)