Sometimes, what should seem obvious apparently isn’t — at least not in Washington.
That’s where a bill to bolster the security of U.S. elections is facing headwinds from, ironically, elected officials. The measure (which is one of several ideas being floated on this pressing issue) is being pushed by Democrats and is backed by a few Republicans; it is facing resistance from other Republicans and, especially, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has declared that the bill, which has passed the House, won’t even get a vote in the Senate.
In the wake of what has happened to our election process in recent years (the 2016 attack on the process by Russia was detailed in Robert Mueller’s recent 448-page report on the matter), the refusal by lawmakers — and, in particular, the stonewalling by one powerful senator — to address or even consider the matter is a baffling dereliction of duty.
If absolutely nothing else, lawmakers have a responsibility to protect the sanctity of elections, which is THE engine the runs our democracy.
The House election security bill calls for numerous measures, and to be sure, recent history was in mind when some sections of it were drafted. The measure would require paper ballots to check against computer hacking and would set early-voting standards. It would also target more conventional, corruptive foreign influences in U.S. elections by tightening campaign finance laws and requiring the president and vice president to release their tax returns. It would also create independent commissions to handle legislative redistricting.
These are sensible proposals that not only help secure the democratic process from foreign influences and computer vulnerabilities, but also monitor the process for political games such as gerrymandering.
McConnell has declared that he opposed the bill because he believes it should be up to state and local governments to oversee their own elections.
He’s also said, in effect, the measure is designed to bolster the prospects of Democratic candidates. However, if building safeguards against foreign attacks on the election process and cleaning up political abuses is seen as an attempt to help Democrats, what does the reverse suggest?
That might be found in an unfortunate comment made by President Donald Trump in an interview last week, when he said he would be open to seeing foreign information on an opposing candidate during an election. This seems to reflect the lack of concern and outright defensiveness he has exhibited on the issue of foreign meddling. As it is, critics say his comment comes off as a virtual invitation to other countries to impact our elections. (An effort Thursday by Democratic Virginia Sen. Mark Warner to pass a bill requiring campaigns to report any contacts from foreign nationals working to interfere in a presidential election was blocked by Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. Again, what does this suggest?)
Our elections are about us and about our voices being heard, not filtered or suppressed or compromised. The U.S. election process faced that interference in 2016, according to numerous intelligence agencies that have investigated the matter, suggesting that the sanctity and legitimacy of our democracy was and is in peril. Doing nothing hurts our defenses and leaves us prone to more interference. In short, doing nothing about this serious problem makes no sense at all.