Senate approves bill to protect elections cybersecurity


STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Cynthia A. Coyne to authorize the secretary of state and the Board of Elections to conduct a cybersecurity assessment of Rhode Island’s elections system and create systems to protect future elections from cyberattack.

The legislation (2022-S 2809) is meant to analyze the systems currently in place and establish the structures necessary to proactively ensure that proper cybersecurity measures are taken for future elections.

“The integrity of our elections system is a critical necessity. The threat of foreign or domestic hackers trying to meddle with public systems in our country and others is very real. We must take it seriously and vigorously guard against it. The technology we use in elections must be absolutely secure, so voters feel confident about their own votes and the results of our elections,” said Chairwoman Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).

The legislation, which chairwoman Coyne submitted on behalf of Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, establishes an election systems cybersecurity review board, which would include the League of Cities and Towns, the State Police and Rhode Island National Guard.

It requires the secretary of state to conduct a cybersecurity assessment of the state’s elections and facilities, and requires annual training on cybersecurity and best practices for local elections officials, a critical step to protecting future elections.

Finally, the bill creates a Cybersecurity Incident Response Group that includes the State Police, the Rhode Island National Guard, Division of Information Technology, and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency to establish communication protocols in the event of a cybersecurity breach on the state or local level.

A recent Gallop poll shows that Americans rank cybersecurity as a top threat facing our country, with 98% saying it’s a critical issue. 

The bill now goes to the House, which has approved identical legislation (2022-H 7732) sponsored by House Innovation, Internet and Technology Committee Chairwoman Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).