In a Senate hearing on Wednesday, technology experts testified that Russia and other foreign actors are continuing efforts to influence our elections. Meanwhile, intelligence agencies have already identified cyber threats against states’ election systems and made clear that this year’s midterm elections remain a target for disruption. If we do nothing, the very fabric of our democracy will be put at grave risk. The Republican-led Congress, however, continues to ignore this threat, even as Trump administration officials acknowledge that election security is a major concern. When House Republican leaders brought an appropriations bill to the Floor in July, they did so without providing funds to assist states in making their voting technology secure, accurate, and verifiable. House Republicans unanimously rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) to provide those resources, and Senate Republicans rejected a similar amendment last week.
In the aftermath of the disputed 2000 election, which first exposed the vulnerabilities in our voting systems and the myriad ways different states secure their elections, I authored the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). At the time, no one doubted the need for federal help in securing Americans’ right to have their votes counted accurately, and HAVA passed with bipartisan support and was signed by President George W. Bush. It was HAVA that established the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which provides states with grants to improve election security and promotes best practices. It is thanks to the EAC that Americans no longer have to worry about “hanging chads.”
In 2018, though, it isn’t chads or punch cards we need to worry about – it’s hackers and voting systems that cannot be verified. After learning of what Russians and other bad actors have already done in trying to break into states’ voting systems, few today doubt the continued need for federal support for states to secure their election infrastructure. That’s why ensuring that the EAC and the states all have the resources to improve election security is critical – and why the amendments offered in both the House and Senate were so timely.