This week, Senate Republicans blocked five measures that would have strengthened our electoral system and protected it from foreign interference. These bills are critically important to the betterment of our democracy and Senate Republicans refuse to even consider their merits. The American people deserve to understand these bills, why they are so significant, and the lack of reasoning behind the moves to block them from becoming law.
The Honest Ads Act: This bill would require online platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to publicly disclose who pays for political ads, similar to disclosures that are required on TV ads. This measure also ensures that these platforms are making all reasonable efforts to block foreign entities from buying political ads in America. The Kremlin’s main strategy to infiltrate our election in 2016 occurred on sites like Facebook and the result, as we have seen, was incredibly damaging. Foreign actors spreading disinformation online is a threat to our democracy and requiring greater transparency of online advertisements is a simple way to protect the American people from the influence of hostile foreign actors.
Election Security Act: This measure would give states $1 billion for election security efforts and require backup paper ballots. The argument against this bill was that the level of funding was excessive. But experts predict that far more funds are needed to make sure our system is secure. In a country where everyone should have the right to choose their representatives, what could be more fundamental than allocating funds to protect their right to vote? Others argued that there were no security issues in 2018, but that’s also not quite accurate. There may be no cases of votes being changed by hacking, there’s plenty of evidence that hackers are probing ways to control our democracy, and we have to stay ahead of them to stay secure.
Duty to Report Act: This legislation would require campaign officials to report contacts with foreign nationals who are trying to make donations or coordinate with the campaign to the Federal Election Commission and FBI. In 2016, individuals acting on behalf of the Russian government successfully held meetings with the Trump campaign and President Trump has said publicly that he’s open to receiving foregn help in 2020. Without a legal requirement to report foreign influence operations, campaigns may be tempted to seek foreign help or turn a blind eye to attacks on our democracy. This bill would also help our intelligence agencies gather information on foreign government’s attempts to influence our elections.
SAFE Act: The Securing America’s Federal Elections Act, or SAFE Act, protects U.S. elections by improving election security and increasing financial support to modernize and secure voting systems. States will be eligible for grants to replace their current voting systems with new, modern voting systems, compatible with paper ballots and ranked-choice voting. The penetration of two Florida voting systems by Russian agents in 2016 underscores the fragility of our elections and the present danger to U.S. democracy. The U.S. must take steps to improve election security and protect our country from foreign interference. Foreign adversaries were successful in 2016 and our intelligence agencies have warned that we are at risk of future attacks.
SHIELD Act: Similar to the Duty to Report Act, this bill requires campaign to report any illicit offers of election assistance from foreign governments or individuals to both the FBI and the Federal Election Commission. It also requires campaigns to take steps to ensure that political advertisements on social media are subject to the same stricter rules as ads on television or radio. This bill would ensure the protection of our election hardware and infrastructure but also protects the American people from the types of pervasive disinformation campaigns that were so prevalent in 2016.
Our elections are the hallmark of our democratic republic. They are the means by which we assert our rights to self-governance, and they are crucial to our continued liberty. These bills are by no means a silver bullet to secure our elections. But they are a strong foundation for credible, fair, and independent elections. It’s clear that the president isn’t interested in closing loopholes and vulnerabilities that he views as favorable to his re-election. But Congressional Republicans shouldn’t accept his deliberate weakening of our democratic institutions.
So if you have a moment, please click here to email your representatives in Congress to demand they take action to protect our elections and your right to vote.