President Trump would be able to dispatch Secret Service agents to polling places nationwide during a federal election, a vast expansion of executive authority, if a provision in a Homeland Security reauthorization bill remains intact. The rider has prompted outrage from more than a dozen top elections officials around the country, including Secretary of State William F. Galvin of Massachusetts, a Democrat, who says he is worried that it could be used to intimidate voters and said there is “no basis” for providing Trump with this new authority. “This is worthy of a Third World country,” said Galvin in an interview. “I’m not going to tolerate people showing up to our polling places. I would not want to have federal agents showing up in largely Hispanic areas.” “The potential for mischief here is enormous,” Galvin added. The provision alarming him and others is a rider attached to legislation that would re-authorize the Department of Homeland Security. The legislation already cleared the House of Representatives with bipartisan support.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs didn’t include the measure in the version of the bill it approved this week, according to Ben Voelkel, a spokesman for Senator Ron Johnson, who chairs the Senate committee.
The full Senate must still approve the bill, and then the two versions of the legislation would need to be reconciled before going to the president for approval. The White House didn’t respond to a question about the measure.
“There is no discernible need for federal secret service agents to intrude, at the direction of the president, who may also be a candidate in that election, into thousands of citadels where democracy is enshrined,” according to a letter opposing the provision that was signed by 19 bipartisan secretaries of state and elections commissioners.