The White House has stepped in to stop updated election security legislation from advancing in the Senate, claiming the Department of Homeland Security already has all the resources and authority it needs to help the states and emphasizing states should be in command and control of their own operations.
The Secure Elections Act, introduced by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., in December 2017, had co-sponsorship from two of the Senate’s most prominent liberals, Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as well as from conservative stalwart Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and consummate centrist Susan Collins, R-Me.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., was set to conduct a markup of the bill on Wednesday morning in the Senate Rules Committee, which he chairs. The bill had widespread support, including from some of the committee’s Republican members, and was expected to come to a full Senate vote in October. But then the chairman’s mark, as the critical step is known, was canceled, and no explanation was given.
As it currently stands, the legislation would grant every state’s top election official security clearance to receive threat information. It would also formalize the practice of information-sharing between the federal government—in particular, the Department of Homeland Security—and states regarding threats to electoral infrastructure. A technical advisory board would establish best practices related to election cybersecurity. Perhaps most significantly, the law would mandate that every state conduct a statistically significant audit following a federal election. It would also incentivize the purchase of voting machines that leave a paper record of votes cast, as opposed to some all-electronic models that do not.
In a statement to Yahoo News, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters says that while the administration “appreciates Congress’s interest in election security, [the Department of Homeland Security] has all the statutory authority it needs to assist state and local officials to improve the security of existing election infrastructure.”
“We cannot support legislation with inappropriate mandates or that moves power or funding from the states to Washington for the planning and operation of elections,” she added. However, the White House gave no specifics on what parts of the bill it objected to.
The Trump administration has been unable to settle on how elections should be secured, and whom they should be secured against. Despite consensus from the nation’s intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in 2016, President Trump has dismissed the threat, even as others in his administration have issued unambiguous warnings ...
Lankford, Klobuchar and others had worked for months to persuade their peers that electoral security is a nonpartisan issue. Supporters expected the legislation would make its way out of committee and become law, a rare bipartisan success story in the current Congress. As the chairman’s mark approached, they appeared to have won the votes they needed in the Senate Rule Committee.
[Lankford] acknowledged that the federal government should not encroach on states’ administration of elections, but he also argued that states had to show more awareness of the high stakes involved. “Your election in Delaware affects the entire country,” he said. “Your election in Florida affects the entire country.”
Lankford, a rising young Republican legislator, vowed to press on. “The issue of election cybersecurity is very important and more must be done now,” he said in a statement. “Congressional inaction is unacceptable.”
White House blocks bill that would protect elections (Yahoo News)