Call for Action: Election Security a 'National Emergency'Legislators, Others Demand Action on Five Bills
Calling election security a “national emergency,” nearly 100 past and current Democratic and Republican lawmakers and other government officials have sent a letter to the Senate calling for passage of stalled legislation.
The Thursday letter, presented by the nonprofit group Issue One, which focuses on reducing the role of money in politics and “modernizing elections,” requests the Senate approve five bills covering a range of cybersecurity-related issues.
“We are alarmed at the lack of meaningful Congressional action to secure our elections. The United States cannot afford to sit by as our adversaries exploit our vulnerabilities,” the letter states. “Congress - especially the Senate - must enact a robust and bipartisan set of policies now. China, Iran, Russia, and nonstate actors are utilizing every means possible to manipulate our elections and undermine the faith Americans have in our democracy. These efforts pose severe threats to our national security.”
The legislation the letter endorses includes:
- The Secure Elections Act, which seeks to bolster voting systems while reaffirming each state’s role in administering federal elections;
- The Honest Ads Act, which backers say would help protect against hidden, foreign propaganda efforts online.
- The Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act, which is designed to modernize and enforce lobbying laws and impose meaningful penalties for rule breakers;
- The Shell Company Abuse Act, which backers say would help ensure foreign actors cannot hide behind tax laws to subvert elections;
- The Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, which would impose sanctions on countries that interfere in American elections
”In addition to action on these five important bills, Congress should ensure that states and counties have the additional financial support they need to address election vulnerabilities, coupled with minimum standards and requirements to ensure election security and verifiability,” the letter states.
In recent days, Senate Democrats have tried to get votes on certain election security bills, but have been blocked by Republicans, who have argued, for example, that some of the legislation would give the federal government unprecedented control over elections, according to The Hill.
Helping Local Governments
Meanwhile, yet another bill, the DOTGOV Online Trust in Government Act of 2019, was introduced Wednesday by senators James Lankford, R-Okla; Gary Peters, D-Mich; Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.; and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn..
The bill aims to strengthen local governments' cybersecurity defenses by enabling them to switch to the .gov domain for websites and email addresses. The measure is an attempt to make it more difficult for cybercriminals to impersonate government officials for phishing and other identity-theft related scams.
"When official government websites use the .gov domain instead of alternatives like .us or .com, it makes those government websites and email addresses more secure,” Klobuchar says. “Unfortunately, right now most county and local governments don’t use the .gov domain. This allows cybercriminals to more easily impersonate government officials in order to defraud the public and get people to share sensitive information. "
(News Editor Howard Anderson contributed to this story.)