House Democrats are planning a blitz of efforts to improve election security when they take control of the lower chamber next year. Democrats will include some version of election security legislation in H.R. 1, the major legislative package they plan to introduce in the first days of the next Congress, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told me. Thompson also intends to hold public hearings with Trump administration leaders and state and local election officials focused on how they’re hardening election systems in the lead-up to the marquee 2020 contest. The committee will further seek to hear from top voting machine manufacturers, which have had a contentious relationship with congressional watchdogs, a Democratic committee aide told me. The House Oversight Committee will also review how states are spending $380 million in election security grants that Congress approved as part of an omnibus spending bill in March, Rep. Robin L. Kelly (D-Ill.), incoming chair of the committee’s information technology panel, said in an interview.
“The first thing we have to do is have some oversight hearings and talk about weaknesses, which we didn’t get an opportunity to do this last session,” Thompson told me. “The will to do oversight on cyber issues just wasn’t there.”
Taken together, the actions suggest a relentless Democratic focus on election security when the party reclaims the House majority come January, which is likely to keep the issue in the headlines during an off-year when it might otherwise fall off the radar. The Democratic push comes after the GOP-led Congress failed to pass a comprehensive election security measure this year following the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, including unsuccessful probes of voting systems in 21 states.