Government Election Officials Say Voting by Mail is Secure
WASHINGTON — State and federal election officials advocated for aggressive measures to prevent foreign influence and voter fraud in the Nov. 3 election during a congressional hearing Tuesday.
They also denied President Donald Trump’s assertions that a big increase in mail-in voting to protect voters from contracting coronavirus jeopardizes a fair election.
“The truth is that there is nothing nefarious,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, who chairs the House Administration subcommittee on elections. “It is simply about counting ballots.”
She urged Trump and his supporters “not to spread fear and lies about a rigged election.”
The subcommittee on elections called the hearing days after the first presidential debate, when Trump argued against mail-in voting by predicting it would be tainted by fraud and the ballots would be “manipulated.”
“This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen,” Trump said.
No Republicans on the subcommittee spoke during the hearing.
However, Republican leaders in Congress have largely avoided endorsing Trump’s fraud predictions. Instead, they have sought assurances from cybersecurity experts, social media executives and the U.S. Postal Service that the upcoming election would be conducted fairly.
Benjamin Hovland, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, said Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race led to tighter security that will be evident during the election next month. The FBI uncovered evidence the Russians used social media and disinformation to help Trump’s campaign.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s designation of election infrastructure as critical infrastructure has helped to fortify and coordinate efforts between federal, state and local government agencies, as well as with industry,” Hovland said in his testimony.
Funding for election security is authorized by the Help America Vote Act, which Congress approved after a review of the 2002 election showed that nearly two million ballots were disqualified because they were cast by unregistered voters or persons who voted multiple times.
The Act created the Election Assistance Commission to establish minimum election administration standards.
The Election Assistance Commission has distributed nearly $1.2 billion in grant funding to states since 2018.
Hovland said the funding “has greatly improved the security posture of our elections.”
Inajo Davis Chappell, a member of the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Board of Elections, blamed Trump for much of the concern this year about the security of an election that will rely heavily on voting by mail. Cleveland is the biggest city in the county.
“President Trump and other domestic bad actors have unfairly demonized the vote by mail process,” Chappell said. “Voting by mail is safe and messaging to the contrary needs to stop.”
Jena Griswold, Colorado’s secretary of state, described a program she spearheaded for an aggressive program against election fraud. She calls it the Rapid Response Election Security Cyber Unit.
It relies on public outreach and information-sharing among government agencies and private organizations to identify foreign or domestic disruptions of elections.
Griswold proposed legislation to state lawmakers to vigorously track the sources of election messages and videos to ensure they do not come from foreign sources.
“Academic studies and our allies’ experiences demonstrate that mitigating foreign misinformation and disinformation requires ensuring citizens are aware of the threat, think critically about what they see on social media and know where to find reliable information,” Griswold said.
She proposes allowing private citizens to sue anyone who tries to disseminate election disinformation.
She recommended that federal intelligence agencies be required to declassify evidence of foreign meddling in U.S. elections promptly to help the public counteract it. She also said social media companies should be required to disclose foreign disinformation campaigns.
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