Compared to what Congress should be doing in the face of multiple foreign threats to the integrity of U.S. elections, the Secure Elections Act is just a first step. Yet the Senate is having trouble taking even this initial move. The fault lies with a shortsighted White House, which has poured cold water on the bill, and some state leaders, who complain about being required to make some basic changes.
The bipartisan bill, shepherded by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., appeared to be on its way to easy passage in October.
But a committee session to consider the modest bill was suddenly and curiously canceled last week. Yahoo News reported that one cause was the White House, quoting a Trump administration spokeswoman who expressed opposition to “legislation with inappropriate mandates or that moves power or funding from the states to Washington for the planning and operation of elections.”
If anything, the bill’s “inappropriate mandates” are not strong enough. One of its most promising provisions would require states to conduct post- election audits to confirm the integrity of the count.
Yet election security expert Lawrence Nordenof the Brennan Center for Justice pointed out in an email that “it’s a ‘soft’ mandate, in that it doesn’t require a manual review of paper, and it leaves it up to the chief state election official to interpret what it means.”
Beyond the audit provision, the bill would require companies that states hire to provide election services to tell officials when they detect a cybersecurity problem. It would call for establishing voluntary cybersecurity guidelines for states; similar guidelines for voting machines have helped push states to upgrade.
The bill might be more palatable to state elections officials wary of federal interference if it came with money for states to institute its mandates.
-The Washington Post