In the height of one of the most politicized times in U.S. history, election security is an issue that should not be partisan. But that’s how U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)—who continues to block election security efforts from a vote—framed the issue in a recent speech from the Senate floor.
“Make no mistake—many of the proposals labeled by Democrats to be election security are measures, in fact, for election reform that are part of the wish list of the left,” McConnell said.
Eligible voters already face hurdles to making their voices heard at the ballot box, including outdated voter rolls and difficultly accessing the polls. The added fear of foreign interference and tampering in our elections only add to the fear that Americans feel about voting. In an effort to ease that anxiety, states across the country have implemented election security reforms through bipartisan efforts. We’ve seen several prominent Republicans support or sign into law voting reforms that provide greater election security within their states. In the past five years alone, elected officials from states like Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Alaska have supported legislation or ballot measures to push automatic voter registration, among other voting reforms.
We know without a doubt that in the previous two national election cycles, nefarious foreign entities sought, with some success, to interfere in our democratic process. In reality, other countries have tried interfering with our elections for years.
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Rightfully so, election interference is an issue that voters are deeply concerned about in 2019. A June Associated Press-NORC for Public Affairs Research poll showed that voters—especially Democrats—are worried about election tampering. Half of those polled said they are “extremely or very” concerned about foreign election tampering, and another quarter said they are “somewhat concerned” about it.
“The results make clear that despite the efforts of U.S. officials to ward off election interference and to urge public awareness and calm, Americans remain anxious that some of the same tactics Russia used to meddle in the 2016 presidential election could surface again in the next race,” the Associated Press reported.
So why is McConnell insistent on keeping the gate open for these bad actors in the coming elections?
The only explanation he offered is the bizarre argument that election security is on the “wish list of the left,” as if protecting the country were a partisan issue. But in truth, several senators in the majority leader’s own caucus have recognized and articulated the need for election security measures.
Republican Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), alongside Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Gary Peters (D-MI), introduced legislation in May to insulate election systems from cyberattacks. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME.) has cosponsored two iterations of the Secure Elections Act, a bill that gives the Department of Homeland Security primary responsibility for sharing information about election cybersecurity incidents, threats, and vulnerabilities with federal entities and election agencies. Even Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), a vociferous supporter of President Trump, managed to push election security measures through the Senate and thinks we shouldn’t stop there.
Yet despite the chorus of support across the political spectrum for election security reform, the majority leader still insists on stonewalling.
Though election security has received bipartisan support on both state and federal levels, McConnell has concluded that securing voting systems, expanding access to the ballot, and broadening electoral participation are detrimental to his own political ends. McConnell is ostensibly of the belief that when we protect access to the polls, he loses. And rather than alter his aims to meet the will of the people and his colleagues, he is using his unique position atop the upper chamber of Congress to suppress the voices of eligible voters in the United States and render vulnerable the institutions that uphold our democracy.
Our country was founded on the principle that those who govern cannot do so without the consent of the governed. In the United States, Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and conservatives alike are all enemies of tyranny. But in McConnell’s senseless position and relentless obstruction, he alone has positioned himself as its ally.
Precious and private voter data is left potentially unsecured, leaving the integrity of our elections at risk. It’s time for Mitch McConnell to put aside his partisan viewpoints and recognize that activists and colleagues on both sides of the aisle simply want to ensure our elections are safe and secure.