Inaction on election security by the GOP-led U.S. Senate would be remarkable if it wasn’t downright frightening.
There’s no disputing election threats abound from every dark corner of the cyber-world, yet President Donald Trump and Republicans barely mention it.
Last week, the GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a bipartisan plan passed by the House that would have allocated $775 million to states to upgrade voting machines and require paper ballots as a verification method. It would also have allocated continued funding for states to keep their systems up to date.
GOP leaders say the $380 million the Trump administration allocated in 2018 was sufficient to shore up the nation’s voting infrastructure. But the facts seem to be supporting a need for a much greater investment.
Last week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller told Congress that the disruption of the 2016 election was just a practice run for the Russians who are planning more attacks “as we sit here.” At the same time, the Senate Intelligence Committee determined Russians attempted cyber-attacks to voting systems in all 50 states, not just 21, as earlier thought.
Cybersecurity experts say a paper trail ballot system can serve to verify accurate voting, whereas a system without a paper trail is subject to being hacked. In 2018, some 10 states had more than half of their voting districts using voting machines without paper trails. Only four states require doing “risk limiting” audits of voting. Clearly, more federal funding is needed. Concerns about a “federal takeover” of the voting system are unfounded. No one is looking to take away states’ power to conduct elections and secure voting.
Minnesota is working quickly to shore up its election system, even though Republicans in Minnesota withheld federal money for nearly a year. Senate elections committee chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer blocked allocation of $6.6 million in the 2018 federal election money over ideological arguments of nonexistent voter fraud.
Secretary of State Steve Simon aims to use the funds to hire a “cyber navigator” to work with local election officials in securing and safeguarding their systems, according to a report in the Star Tribune.
He also plans to upgrade the state’s 15-year old voter registration system.
In a world where technology has exploded with everything from facial recognition software to voice manipulating audio editing, it seems foolish to be penny rich and dollar poor when it comes to election security. There is nothing more valuable than election security and integrity in a democracy.