Bill Would Make Hacking Voting Systems a Federal Crime
As it currently stands in the United States, most computer-related crimes can be charged as federal offenses, as they largely utilize the online infrastructure of the Internet. Computer-related federal charges may stem from using the Internet to traffic drugs, weapons, and even people, in addition to illegal materials such as child pornography. Interstate and international scams conducted via the Internet can also be prosecuted as federal crimes. “Hacking” or gaining illicit access to computer systems or networks is usually a federal crime, as well.
With all of this in mind, it may come as quite a shock to learn that the U.S. justice system currently does not have a clear process in place for prosecuting those accused of hacking into a federal voting system. However, the U.S. House unanimously passed a bill last month that would give federal prosecutors the statutory support they need to prosecute voting system hacking. The bill cleared the Senate in 2019 and is now awaiting President Trump’s signature so that it can be enacted into law.
Origins of the Bill
Senate Bill 1321 of the 116th Congress is officially entitled the Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act, and it is intended to amend the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to expressly cover hacking federal voting systems. The need for the bill was made apparent by a 2018 report from the Justice Department’s Cyber Digital Task Force. The report indicated that the CFAA—the government’s primary legal support for the prosecution of computer hackers—does not clearly prohibit hacking voting machines.
The CFAA currently addresses computer systems that are connected to the Internet (or that meet other very specific criteria). Voting machines, despite being computerized or electronic, are not usually connected to the Internet. Therefore, they do not meet the CFAA’s criteria. Hacking a voting machine could potentially be prosecuted under other statutes, but the prosecution would likely be much more difficult.
The Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act was co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The language of the bill would add computers that are used as part of a voting system for federal elections to the list of protected computers in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Despite the current climate of political divisiveness, it appears that the need for this bill transcended party politics. Last year, the bill passed unanimously in the Senate. The same thing happened in the House last month. President Trump has not commented on the measure, but the Justice Department is also in favor of the bill becoming law. Experts say that the president is very likely to sign the bill into law, though it is unclear when that might happen.
Facing Federal Computer Crime Charges? A Plano, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
If you or someone you love is facing charges under the Computer Crimes and Abuse Act, it is important to discuss your case with a lawyer who has vast experience working in the federal justice system. At The Crowder Law Firm, P.C., we have helped many clients successfully defend against federal hacking charges, and we are prepared to help you. Call 214-303-9600 to schedule a free consultation with a skilled Collin County federal crimes defense attorney today.