Blue Dogs Seek to Secure U.S. Elections, Deter Future Interference

June 21, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – After playing a critical role in passing a sweeping election and ethics reform bill, the Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats on Friday unveiled a package of legislative proposals aimed at securing U.S. elections and deterring future interference by Russia or any other bad actors.

Codified in response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusion that Russia made “multiple, systematic efforts to interfere” in the 2016 election, the Blue Dogs’ solutions are based primarily on a set of 11 bills which have been endorsed by the coalition and earned bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.

“We are now months away from the start of the presidential primary process,” said Representative Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy, during a morning news conference Friday. “Time is running out for Congress to secure our elections and deter our adversaries from attempting to interfere in the 2020 election.

“The only way we will be able to resolve this issue before the 2020 election process begins is by pursuing bipartisan solutions that can pass a Democratic-led House, a Republican-led Senate, and get to President Trump’s desk for a signature,” O’Halleran said. “We cannot allow partisan politics to cloud this urgent national security threat to our country.”

Among the proposals aimed at both securing U.S. elections and increasing voters’ confidence in the electoral process is a bill requiring all states to use paper ballots or use machines that produce a voter-verifiable paper audit trail.

The coalition points out this idea has earned public support from President Trump and Election Systems & Software, a major voting machine vendor.

The Blue Dogs also called on Congress to pass the bipartisan, bicameral Honest Ads Act, which requires political ads sold online to abide by the same transparency and disclosure rules as political ads sold on television, radio, and satellite.

The proposal includes several measures to enhance coordination and require federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to regularly assess the threat of election interference and inform Congress and state election officials on their findings.

In addition to securing the U.S. election infrastructure and equipping state and local election officials with the resources they need, the coalition on Friday also proposed Congress close several legal loopholes to ensure foreign entities cannot participate in the U.S. electoral process.

The proposal also calls for creating a new criminal violation for any individual who knowingly targets critical U.S. infrastructure, including election infrastructure, with an exception for certain forms of ethical hacking that are used to detect vulnerabilities.

Finally, the Blue Dogs called on Congress to pass the most hard-hitting measures ever imposed against Russia in retaliation to its attempts to meddle in the 2016 and 2018 elections and pursue aggressive policies to deter future interference attempts by Russia and other adversaries, including China, Iran, and North Korea.

“National security goes beyond supporting our troops and funding our military,” said Representative Kendra Horn, D-Okla., co-chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on National Security. “Free, fair, and secure elections are not a partisan issue—they must be a cornerstone of our democracy. It’s time for Congress to act to protect our elections from foreign interference. We must send a clear signal to the world: we will not tolerate any attempt to undermine our country.”

The Blue Dog Coalition’s proposals are likely to increase pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has blocked several election security measures, arguing that the federal government is already doing enough to protect elections.

After the release of the Mueller report, McConnell declared the U.S. was ready for the 2020 race.

“Thanks to this administration’s leadership, all 50 states and more than 1,400 local election jurisdictions focused on election security like never before,” he said.

But in an interview last week with Fox News, he appeared to be wavering.

“I’m open to considering legislation, but it has to be directed in a way that doesn’t undermine state and local control of elections,” McConnell said.

“It is time for Congress to work together to come up with a bipartisan solution to election interference,” said Representative Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., co-chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on National Security. “Since the founding of our nation, our democracy has been the beacon of hope and the standard by which other countries look to. We need to do everything in our power to assure the American people that the election system is secured and that outside forces will not interfere. The next elections are quickly approaching. The time for action is now.”

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