Rep. Cooper urges Tennessee to act after election security concerns raised

Jim Cooper (Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper says he “sounding an alarm” about election security in Tennessee.

“It not just the Russians. our elections could be vulnerable from hacking from pretty much any source,” told reporters at his Nashville office Friday morning.

His words come after listening in Washington this week to warnings from top officials from the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency.

Despite a good election security record in the past, Rep. Cooper says Tennessee needs to act.

“We have an opportunity to improve our election system so it cannot be hacked,” said the congressman.

Cooper hopes Tennessee uses nearly 30-million dollars leftover from the federal Help America Vote Act to ensure a paper trail for each vote cast.

He urges state lawmakers to immediately consider a group to look into the threats to hack, scan or breach the multitude of county election systems in place across Tennessee.

“I would have a special committee formed, its really a state responsibility. they run elections,” added Cooper.

On Friday Secretary of State Tre Hargett–whose agency runs elections–was in Washington being briefed on numerous issues including voting security.

House Speaker Beth Harwell told News Two she “would defer to him if something needs to be done, but protecting the integrity of our elections is paramount.”

After Cooper’s words, the Secretary of State’s office released a lengthy statement from its spokesperson.

Elections officials from across Tennessee work tirelessly to hold fair, honest and secure elections. Cybersecurity has and will continue to be a top priority in Tennessee, especially when it relates to elections. We continue to work with our partners at the state level who handle cybersecurity for our systems. To our knowledge, Tennessee has not been impacted.

“There is currently more than $29 million in the state’s remaining Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds with each county having discretion over when to access and use its funding. Typically, any equipment upgrades are done during nonelection years to allow time for proper training and implementation without disrupting an election cycle.

“To date, counties across Tennessee have spent more than $35 million in HAVA funds in voting system upgrades. This is in addition to improvements for voter registration, military voter and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. In Tennessee, county election commissions used a bulk of the funding in 2005 and 2006 to upgrade voting systems and eliminate punch card and lever voting systems.

“In Tennessee, elections are administered and certified at the county level. Voting machines, which are air-gapped from the internet, vary by county because each of the state’s 95 county election commissions picks from a list of systems that have been certified by the Tennessee State Election Commission and U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Additionally, election results provided after polls close are unofficial. Results must be certified on the local and state levels in the weeks following an election which adds an extra layer of checks and balances