Mississippi is especially vulnerable to appropriations that allow the federal government to whittle away at state control through grants and new federal requirements.
With the 2016 Election behind us and a new incoming President and Republican controlled Congress, it might have felt for a moment to conservatives that we could breathe a little deeper.
Sure, there are plenty of things for citizens to watch closely right now.
A federal government that has been allowed to evolve into working more outside of constitutional restraints than within its designated constitutional responsibilities will require a lot of clean up. Plus, being unsure at this point how many we have in office in Washington as a result of empty campaign promises, and how many carry with them honest goals, means we’re all still in the getting-to-know-one-another stage.
So leave it to the Obama Administration to create chaos as they are walking out the door, and as a state heavily dependent on federal funds Mississippi is particularly vulnerable to the action.
On Friday, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson announced that the nations election system would be designated as ‘critical infrastructure’.
What this means is that the Feds will now take responsibility for overseeing the security of the state-managed election infrastructure including storage facilities, polling places and vote tabulation locations. They will now keep an Orwellian eye on the technology involved in the process, voter registration databases, voting machines and other systems used to manage the election process and report and display results. Of course, it’s all in the name of security.
The National Association of Secretaries of State issued a statement in response, saying the move is “legally and historically unprecedented.”
“While we recognize the need to share information on threats and risk mitigation in our elections at all levels of government, as we did throughout the 2016 cycle, it is unclear why a critical infrastructure classification is now necessary for this purpose,” the statement read.
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann released a statement of his own a few days later on Tuesday, describing DHS decision as “sudden,” “overreaching and unnecessary.”
Overreaching? Definitely. Unnecessary? You betcha. Sudden? Not so much.
But, hey, two out of three ain’t bad. And Hosemann’s been really busy buying our grandchildren an island.
This has actually been in the works for quite a while. DHS Director Johnson first floated the idea of the designation nearly 6 months ago.
“I do think we should carefully consider whether our election system is critical infrastructure like the financial structure, like the power grid,” Secretary Johnson said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on August 1, 2016. “There is a vital national interest in our election process.”
Someone who hasn’t been too busy to sound the alarms on the DHS move is Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Kemp started back on August 25 of 2016 when DHS “offered” to inspect state voting systems for bugs and entryways for potential hackers.
Kemp told them “no thanks” and immediately voiced concerns that what was really happening was a test-run by the federal government to get their arms around the system and gather measurable data.
“The question remains whether the federal government will subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security,” Kemp told Nextgov in an email. “Designating voting systems or any other election system as critical infrastructure would be a vast federal overreach, the cost of which would not equally improve the security of elections in the United States.”
Hosemann said that he would check into it in the coming days.
As to the DHS designation, we’ll have to wait and see what incoming President Donald Trump will do.
Obama DHS Director Johnson has been careful to state on several occasions that “the designation does nothing to change the role state and local governments have in administering and running elections,” and it enables DHS to prioritize cybersecurity assistance to state and local election officials, “but only for those who request it.”
Mississippi is especially vulnerable to appropriations that allow the federal government to whittle away at state control through grants and new federal requirements that come with the promise of money that state officials have proven more than willing to use to increase agency budgets, and plug holes in revenue shortfall. It’s the main reason why Mississippi and several other states have Common Core today. Here in the Magnolia State we get $4.70 for every dollar we send to Washington, making us the Top Dog in the category of state dependence. Nobody begs for scraps like Mississippi does!
Our state officials REALLY like to “request it”, too. And our federal elected officials love to dish it out. The Mississippi Dept. Of Education would agree to put up a 100-foot statue of the sun god ‘Ra’ in the lobby of Central High School if they thought the Feds would provide matching funds.
“The designation allows for information to be withheld from the public when state, local and private partners meet to discuss election infrastructure security.” “U.S. officials say such closed door conversations allow for frank discussion that would prevent bad actors from learning about vulnerabilities. DHS would also be able to grant security clearances when appropriate and provide more detailed threat information to states.”
That sounds familiar doesn’t it? In this case it also doesn’t sound anything like the states maintaining their constitutional role as Director Johnson keeps repeatedly saying, and that should make every voter in the state, and the country who pays our way, very concerned.