Mitch McConnell proves leadership with legislation on election security

Photo credit: Greg Nash

Protecting our voting systems from foreign and domestic tampering is a top priority heading into the 2020 election. Americans deserve to know that their elections are conducted fairly and honestly. The recent Senate Intelligence Committee report has shown that our voting infrastructure is under threat from malicious hackers seeking to cast doubt on the integrity of our elections. Attention has focused on Russia, but threats could come from Iran, China, and North Korea or other foreign and domestic hackers.

While there is no evidence that Russia hacked the vote totals of the 2016 election, lawmakers need to focus on making sure that future elections are above suspicion. They need to ensure that new threats are detected, known threats are countered, and system vulnerabilities are addressed. Thankfully, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been the leading advocate for election security. Just months ago, the Senate approved his $250 million amendment to help states improve voting systems, and the Senate had eventually allocated $425 million in total. Combined with the $380 million that Congress previously appropriated for election security in 2019, lawmakers have allocated over $800 million so far to strengthen our election infrastructure during the two years before the 2020 election.

McConnell has also played a critical role in building bipartisan consensus on election security. The Senate passed a bill by unanimous consent last year out of the Senate Judiciary Committee that made hacking election systems a federal crime. Another bipartisan bill, known as the Deter Act, would block individuals engaging in election interference from obtaining a visa. None of this strong progress would have been possible without the consistent leadership on election security that McConnell exhibits. The reality is the opposite of the vitriolic language used by some politicians and activists on the left. While most lawmakers have worked across the aisle to solve this critical issue, some politicians are using the issue of election security as an excuse to paint McConnell as an obstructionist.

This accusation is simply unfounded. The Constitution guarantees that states and localities have the right of primary administration over their elections. McConnell has rightly opposed legislation that federalizes elections or imposes onerous burdens on states. Some politicians and activists on the left have also accused McConnell of being a “Russian accomplice” for his record on election security, ignoring his explicit public warnings that the “Russians better quit messing around in our elections.” McConnell and the Senate backed his warning up with the aforementioned $800 million to states to bolster their voting systems.

Politicians should stop attacking McConnell and start working with him to harden our election infrastructure. Sensible and effective election security legislation is vital to this effort. Congress should ensure that funding is not wasted on paperless voting machines that cannot be audited, or on voting machines that contain internet modems that will leave them vulnerable to hacking. Voting systems that produce a voter verified paper ballot and are paired with audits that limit risk are the best way to secure our elections. President Trump, who is a consistent supporter of paper ballots, agrees.

With McConnell leading the Senate and Trump in the Oval Office, we are confident that legislation will pass to secure our elections in 2020 and beyond. Spurious accusations threaten the bipartisan coalition built by election security advocates. While some will undoubtedly continue to attack McConnell, his record of achievement here is second to none.

Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform. 

Tony Shaffer is the president of the London Center for Policy.