Hill Democrats target McConnell in election security push

Congressional Democrats are sounding the alarm on the security threats facing the 2020 elections -- and bashing the senator they feel is most responsible for legislative inaction.

politics security

Congressional Democrats are banding together to sound the alarm on the looming security threats facing the 2020 elections -- and bash the senator they believe is most responsible for legislative inaction.

In a July 23 press conference scheduled one day before Special Counsel Robert Mueller heads to Capitol Hill to testify on his report that found "sweeping and systemic" efforts on the part of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 elections, a group of Democrats pledged to barnstorm around the country serving as "Paul Reveres" to warn about the continuing need for comprehensive election security legislation.

They spent most of their time taking aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has become in many respects the primary target of ire for election security advocates after congressional Republicans acknowledged in a Rules Committee hearing earlier this year that he was blocking legislation from reaching the floor of the Senate.

"The remarkable thing is on an issue where there is broad bipartisan support…McConnell has not brought a single piece of election security legislation to the floor even though the president's own security team has said that we're in jeopardy," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said.

Last year, the bipartisan Secure Elections Act was scheduled for a markup in the Senate Rules Committee, one of the final steps before a full floor vote. However, the hearing was canceled at the last minute, and although staffers originally said concerns from the states about certain provisions in the bill prompted the decision, the White House came out publicly against the bill soon after. Since then, the Republican-controlled Senate has not advanced any election security bills, even at the committee level.

One of the co-sponsors of the Secure Elections Act, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), claimed that then-White House Counsel Don McGahn personally lobbied Republicans not to move forward with the bill.

"Don McGahn made calls to Republican senators -- I know this, they won't deny it because they told me it happened," said Klobuchar, who serves on the Rules Committee and is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in the upcoming 2020 elections. "He claimed he was calling from his personal capacity [to lobby against the bill]. He was the White House counsel -- that is not a personal capacity."

Since the Secure Elections Act was tabled, a number of other, mostly Democratic, bills have been introduced and passed in the House only to wind up in "the legislative graveyard" of the Senate, where McConnell has refused to bring them to the floor. When Democrats took control of the House this year, one of the first bills they targeted for passage was H.R. 1, which sought to comprehensively overhaul many aspects of the U.S. election system, including security. After that, they pulled the security provisions into a stand-alone bill, which also passed the House, and senators like Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have introduced similar legislation of their own.

Common to nearly all those bills are more money for states, stronger language requiring or incentivizing the use of electronic voting machines with backup paper ballots and risk-limiting audits to ensure that the electronic and paper vote counts match.

Warner accused McConnell of giving cover to a White House that is "incapable" of accepting assessments from its own intelligence agencies and repeated a refrain about the Secure Elections Act, predicting that if McConnell were to allow any of the election security bills to reach the Senate floor, they would get around 80 votes.

Only Congress can provide new funding and change the law, but other units of the federal government and election community have moved since 2016 to shore up the nation's defenses.

The Department of Homeland Security's new component, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, has built much of its core portfolio around providing technical guidance and cybersecurity resources to protect state and local election infrastructure. The Defense Department and U.S. Cyber Command have used new offensive cyber authorities to conduct limited operations against hackers and trolls based in Russia who may seek to repeat 2016 election influence tactics.

States have used $380 million in congressional grant funding to buy new equipment, train poll workers and implement new security protections. The Federal Election Commission has loosened restrictions to allow political campaigns to use free or discounted cybersecurity services to protect against digital threats, while members of Congress are becoming more cognizant of the need to protect their personal accounts and devices.

The White House issued an executive order last year that puts the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and secretary of Homeland Security in charge of identifying efforts by foreign governments or entities to influence or alter U.S. elections through covert means and levy automatic sanctions on any offenders. Just this week, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats announced the creation of a new position to coordinate election security efforts across the broader intelligence community.

Still, election security experts continue to argue that more resources are sorely needed for state and local governments, which carry out the majority of election administration duties, and intelligence officials say Russia and other countries will be targeting the 2020 elections with renewed fervor.

The same day that lawmakers held their press conference, FBI Director Christopher Wray told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that "the Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere in our elections" and said efforts taken over the past three years had not deterred Russia or other nations from getting involved in 2020.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.