A bipartisan effort to enhance election security is among the priorities for Senate Democrats as part of the debate on the annual defense authorization measure.
“The consensus of 17 U.S. Intelligence agencies was that Russia, a foreign adversary, interfered in our elections. Make no mistake: Their success in 2016 will encourage them to try again,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday. “We have state elections in a couple of months and the 2018 election is a little more than a year away. We must improve our defenses now to ensure we’re prepared.”
The New York Democrat was speaking on the floor about a bipartisan effort led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.
The amendment has the backing of a number of national security experts with Republican backgrounds. On Monday, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former CIA Director James Woolsey, former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers and retired Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer of the London Center for Policy Research wrote to Senate leaders and the Armed Services Committee leadership to push the effort.
“Although election administration is the province of state and local governments, the federal government has a responsibility to support the states and ‘provide for the common defense,’” the former officials wrote. “We do not expect the states to defend themselves against kinetic attacks by hostile foreign powers, nor should we leave them to defend against foreign cyberattacks on their own.”
Among the possible uses of grant funds to states authorized under the amendment would be cyberdefenses for voting systems and postelection audit systems, as well as paper trail technology.
“On other matters of national security, the federal government provides states and municipalities with grants to fund security personnel and first responders on the front lines of addressing threats. Given the longstanding role of the federal government in elections and the seriousness of emerging risks, the issue of voting security should be no different,” the officials wrote in their letter.
Klobuchar’s involvement comes, in part, from her role as the ranking Democrat on the Rules and Administration Committee, which has significant jurisdiction over election matters.
It was not clear as the Senate adjourned Tuesday how many amendments would ultimately be considered to the fiscal 2018 defense bill, despite the efforts of leaders on both sides of the aisle.
But an agreement with Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul for a Wednesday morning procedural vote should increase the chances that the election security amendment gets in the queue for a vote.
Klobuchar and Graham will have Schumer’s backing when it comes time to compile a manager’s package of amendments or to get a standalone vote.
Paul had pledged to object to any procedural efforts to truncate debate on the defense policy bill unless he got a vote on an amendment that would roll back the authorizations for use of military force against Iraq and Afghanistan, which date to the early period of the George W. Bush presidency.
“The Graham-Klobuchar amendment would greatly strengthen our defenses, helping prepare states for the inevitable cyberattacks that threaten the integrity of our elections,” Schumer said Tuesday. “We should pass it as part of the NDAA.”