HB 1421 & SOS Election Advisory Opinion

August 30, 2019

Legislative News

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On Aug. 5, 2019, the Secretary of State (SOS) issued Election Advisory Opinion No. 2019-12 to all county election officials and county judges providing additional requirements to HB 1421, authored by Rep. Cecelia Israel, (D-Austin), that becomes effective on Sept. 1, 2019.

The legislature directed the SOS to work with information security resources and county election officials to address the state’s election security vulnerabilities.  The agency is to promulgate rules and define best practices to reduce risks related to electronic election data and systems. County election officials must implement cybersecurity measures to comply with the adopted rules.

The bill requires the SOS to provide annual training on election security best practices and requires county election officials to request cybersecurity training from the agency on an annual basis. There are no costs associated with the web-based training. The SOS Elections Opinion states all county election officials who use the Texas Election Administration Management (TEAM) system are required to complete the training by Sept. 30, 2019 to maintain access to TEAM..  Users who have not completed the security training by this date, will no longer have access to the TEAM application to request training.

The SOS Elections Opinion further states a county election official who becomes aware of a cybersecurity breach of election data must notify the SOS within 24 hours. To report a cybersecurity breach, a county election official should contact the SOS in person or by email and the communication should be directed to the director of elections or the agency IT director.

HB 1421 mandates that county election officials request an assessment of cybersecurity of the county’s election system from a provider of cybersecurity assessments. The SOS opinion clarifies that all requests initiating an Election Security Assessment (ESA) must be completed by Dec. 31, 2019. Counties must complete their ESA’s by July 31, 2020.

For any questions concerning the implementation of HB 1421 and the election advisory opinion, please contact the Secretary of State, Elections Division, at (800) 252-8683 and your county or district attorney.

For more information regarding the SOS program or to schedule an ESA, please contact elecassessment@sos.texas.gov.