Setting The Record Straight On Election Security

Another $250 Million In Election Security Funding—Totaling $630 Million Over The Last Two Years—Is Just The Latest Example Of Significant Actions Taken Since 2016, Once Again Disproving The Partisan Myths


SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “I’m proud the Financial Services & General Government bill will include a bipartisan amendment providing another $250 million for the administration and security of their elections, to help states improve their defenses and shore up their voting systems. I am proud to have helped develop this amendment and to co-sponsor it in committee. That will bring our total allocation for election security to more than $600 million since fiscal 2018. It’s a crucial issue. The Trump administration has made enormous strides to help states secure their elections without giving Washington new power to push the states around. That’s how we continue the progress we saw in 2018 and that’s exactly what we’re doing.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 9/19/2019)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “Here in Congress we appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars in additional aid for state governments to strengthen their systems. And our efforts continue. This year’s Defense and Intelligence Authorization bills include provisions that will help defend ourselves and our allies against Russian aggression. … In short, it is abundantly clear that the administration and Congress take this issue seriously. So I look forward to hearing more from the administration today about what steps have led to this greater success and what even further safeguards they are working on in advance of 2020. Of course, Congress will need to continue closely monitoring the progress and assess whether further legislative steps might be needed as well.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 7/10/2019)

“The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved $250 million to help states improve election security as part of the annual 2020 financial services and general government funding bill. The funding was the result of a bipartisan amendment to the bill … The overall bill with the amendment included was approved unanimously by the committee. The election security funding amendment includes a clause that requires states to provide a 5 percent match to the federal funds within two years to increase election security. The funds will be given to the states by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which has 45 days after the overall funding bill is signed into law to distribute the money.” (“Senate Committee Approves $250 Million For State Election Security Efforts,” The Hill, 9/19/2019)


The Senate Has Already Taken Significant Bipartisan Actions On Election Security

‘The Largest Distribution Of Funds From The Federal Government To States In The Area Of Election Security Since’ 2002 Was Agreed To In 2018

“Congress provided $380 million in election security funding as part of its massive spending bill, a move that reflects the growing consensus in Washington that more needs to be done to ensure the integrity of America’s elections…. It’s the largest distribution of funds from the federal government to states in the area of election security since Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002 …” (“A Rare Bipartisan Effort In Congress Would Help States Fight Hackers Ahead Of The 2018 Midterms,” Business Insider, 3/22/2018)


The Senate Passed Bipartisan Bills To Strengthen Laws Against Hacking Election Systems And Block Individuals Who Meddle In U.S. Elections From Being Able To Enter The United States

“The Senate took another small step to improve election security Wednesday evening… [S]enators passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee designed to make sure that hacking election systems is actually a federal crime. The bill would amend current law on computer hacking to specify that hacking a computer designated as part of a voting system or for the administration of a federal election is a crime.” (“Senate Seeks To Make Sure That Hacking Election Systems Is A Federal Crime,” Roll Call, 7/18/2019)

“The Senate cleared legislation on Monday night to block individuals who meddle in U.S. elections from being able to enter the United States. The legislation, known as the Defending Elections against Trolls from Enemy Regimes Act (DETER Act), easily passed the Senate by unanimous consent … The bill, spearheaded by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), would block individuals from being able to obtain a visa if they were attempting to or had engaged in ‘improper interference in U.S. elections.’ According to the legislation, that would include violating voting or campaign finance laws or trying to interfere in elections or a campaign while under the direction of a foreign government.” (“Senate Passes Bill To Deny Entry For Individuals Who Meddle In US Elections,” The Hill, 6/3/2019)


This Year’s Bipartisan Senate-Passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Includes Provisions From The Bipartisan Intelligence Authorization Act To Continue ‘Securing Our Elections From Foreign Meddling’

“The IAA for Fiscal Years 2018-2020 represents a bipartisan effort by the Senate Intelligence Committee to authorize the U.S. Intelligence Community’s funding, personnel, and activities, and to ensure continued Congressional oversight of critical programs. The bill improves our Intelligence Community’s ability to protect and defend our country, including in the following key areas: … Securing our elections from foreign meddling by requiring strategic assessments of Russian cyber threats and influence campaigns, and facilitating increased information sharing between state, local, and federal government officials.” (U.S. Senate Select Committee On Intelligence, Press Release, 5/14/2019; U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Press Release, 6/27/2019)

Strong election security provisions were included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), including expediting security clearances for state elections officials (Sec. 10507), requiring the ODNI to review the intel community’s election security posture (Sec. 10502), mandating that the federal government develop a whole-of-government strategy to counter threat of Russian cyber-attacks (10504), improves Congressional reporting of active measures (Sec. 10508), and required the ODNI to establish an Intelligence Community Election Threats Executive (Sec. 10509), and also establishing the need for the ODNI, CIA, NSA, FBI, and DHS to report to Congress on threats facing federal elections 180 days before each election. (Sec. 10503) (S. 1790, 116th Congress)


The Trump Administration Has Taken Action On Election Security

In 2018, The Departments Of Justice And Homeland Security Worked With ‘All 50 States And More Than 1400 Local Jurisdictions’ As Well As The Private Sector To ‘Secure Election Infrastructure And Limit Risk Posed By Foreign Interference’

DEPARTMENTS OF JUSTICE & HOMELAND SECURITY: “Throughout the 2018 midterm election cycle, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security worked closely with federal, state, local, and private sector partners, including all 50 states and more than 1400 local jurisdictions, to support efforts to secure election infrastructure and limit risk posed by foreign interference.  Efforts to safeguard the 2020 elections are already underway.” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Press Release, 2/05/2019)

BIPARTISAN SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE REPORT: “In the face of this threat and these security gaps, DHS has redoubled its efforts to build trust with states and deploy resources to assist in securing elections. Since 2016, DHS has made great strides in learning how election procedures vary across states and how federal entities can be of most help to states. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), and other groups have helped DHS in this effort. DHS’s work to bolster states’ cybersecurity has likely been effective, in particular for those states that have leveraged DHS’s cybersecurily assessments for election infrastructure, but much more needs to be done to coordinate state, local, and federal knowledge and efforts in order to harden states’ electoral infrastructure against foreign meddling.” (Report Of The Select Committee On Intelligence, United States Senate, On Russian Active Measures Campaigns And Interference In The 2016 U.S. Election, Volume 1: Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure With Additional Views, 7/25/2019)

“Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft met with government officials in Silicon Valley [in September 2019] to discuss and coordinate on how best to help secure the 2020 American election, kicking off what is likely to be a marathon effort to prevent the kind of foreign interference that roiled the 2016 election. The daylong meeting, held at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., included security teams from the tech companies, as well as members of the F.B.I., the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security. The agenda was to build up discussions and strategic collaboration ahead of the November 2020 state, federal and presidential elections, according to Facebook. Tech company representatives and government officials talked about potential threats, as well as how to better share information and detect threats, the social network said.” (“Big Tech Companies Meeting With U.S. Officials on 2020 Election Security,” The New York Times, 9/04/2019)


The President ‘Signed A Sweeping Executive Order’ To Facilitate Intelligence Community Investigations Of Any Potential Election Meddling And ‘Authorizing U.S. Sanctions On Any Foreign Individual Or Country That Tries To Interfere’ In Elections

“President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order Wednesday authorizing U.S. sanctions on any foreign individual or country that tries to interfere in U.S. elections.” (“Trump Signs New Order To Sanction Countries That Meddle In U.S. Elections,” USA Today, 9/12/2018)

  • “The order sets up a high-level process for the U.S. intelligence community and other law enforcement officials to investigate and evaluate possible election meddling. First, it requires the Director of National Intelligence to conduct regular assessments of possible election interference. And after each election, the intelligence community will have 45 days to investigate whether there was an attempt at interference, followed by a Justice Department review. If there is a consensus that a foreign country or other entity tried to meddle in the election, automatic sanctions would be triggered …” (“Trump Signs New Order To Sanction Countries That Meddle In U.S. Elections,” USA Today, 9/12/2018)


The Director Of National Intelligence Created A ‘Senior-Level Position Within The Intelligence Community Whose Focus Will Be On Coordinating Its Election Security Efforts’

“Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats announced on Friday the creation of a new, senior-level position within the intelligence community whose focus will be on coordinating its election security efforts. … The election threats executive (ETE), as the position will be known, will serve as the DNI’s main adviser ‘on threats to election security’ and will ‘coordinate and integrate all election security activities, initiatives, and programs’ across the intelligence community and other government agencies, according to a statement released by Coats. The ETE will also chair a board focused on election threats and composed of senior intelligence and government officials, the statement said.” (“Intel Chief Dan Coats Creates New Role To Coordinate Election Security Efforts,” CBS News, 7/19/2019)


Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Office ‘Indicted 26 Russians For Interfering With U.S. Elections And Breaking Into Democratic Party Computers’

“[Special Counsel Robert] Mueller’s … office indicted 26 Russians for interfering with U.S. elections and breaking into Democratic Party computers to obtain and release information … As Mueller said Wednesday, ‘The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate.’” (“Mueller Departs With Warning: Don’t Forget Russia’s Election Meddling,” Roll Call, 5/29/2019)

  • “In February 2018, Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for interfering in the 2016 election. The indictment said 12 of those Russians worked for the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, an internet troll farm that employed hundreds of Russians who created fake social media accounts intended to mislead American voters. The company was funded and run by Putin ally Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who was also charged in the indictment. Prigozhin’s two other companies were also charged. Russians operated social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Google, pretending to be Americans and posted inflammatory messages on race, police shootings and other divisive issues.” (“Mueller Departs With Warning: Don’t Forget Russia’s Election Meddling,” Roll Call, 5/29/2019)


Thanks To These And Other Efforts, 2018 Was Different From 2016

The Departments Of Justice And Homeland Security And The Office Of The Director Of National Intelligence ‘Concluded There Is No Evidence To Date That Any’ Foreign Government Or Agent ‘Had A Material Impact On The Integrity Or Security’ Of The 2018 Congressional Elections

DEPARTMENTS OF JUSTICE & HOMELAND SECURITY: “[T]he Departments have concluded there is no evidence to date that any identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure used in the 2018 midterm elections for the United States Congress. This finding was informed by a report prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) pursuant to the same Executive Order and is consistent with what was indicated by the U.S. government after the 2018 elections.” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Press Release, 2/05/2019)

SEN. McCONNELL: “Yesterday, the entire Senate had the opportunity to meet in classified session for a briefing on election security. We heard from the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI Director, the Acting Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, and other key administration officials about our recent progress and ongoing work to protect our democratic process from interference. The takeaway was clear: After 2016, this new administration kicked into high gear. Alongside our efforts in Congress, all levels of government worked proactively to make sure that 2018 was not a repeat of 2016.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 7/11/2019)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “Many of the details of yesterday’s briefing were obviously classified and should remain so. But much of what was discussed were the specific details and the full impacts of steps that are already public knowledge…. These and other actions have been part of a coordinated, government-wide, federal, state, and local campaign to shore up our defenses. I would anticipate that every member who attended the classified briefing likely came away feeling confident that big steps forward have taken place in the last two and a half years. Thanks in large part to these efforts, the 2018 elections went more smoothly than 2016.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 7/11/2019)

AGENCY OFFICIALS INVOLVED IN CONGRESSIONAL ELECTION SECURITY BRIEFING: “Today we shared with Congress how we continue to bring the full strength, capabilities, and expertise of our departments and agencies to identity and defend against threats to the United States … Just like our successful, whole-of-government approach to securing the 2018 elections, we will work together with our Federal, state, local and private sector partners as well as our foreign allies to protect the 2020 elections and maintain transparency with the American public about our efforts.” (Politico’s Morning Cybersecurity, 7/11/2019)


Unfortunately Congressional Democrats Keep Advancing Partisan Proposals Designed To Consolidate Power In Washington And Take Control Of Elections Away From States

SEN. McCONNELL: “H.R. 1, House Democrats’ marquee bill for the new Congress … really adds up to one big, expensive partisan power grab. An effort to centralize more control over Americans’ speech and Americans’ voting here in Washington D.C…. Decision after decision that our Constitution properly leaves to the states just melts away in this proposal. Practically every variable of any consequence to American elections gets a top-down mandate, written by Democrats…. How many days of early voting should there be? Do polls need to be open on Sundays? What’s the best way to make absentee ballots available? When can early voting take place, and for how long? And where should those polling places be located? Different states and communities have come to different, legitimate judgments on all these questions. It’s a core part of our constitutional system. And the decentralization of our electoral process leads to a more democratic system — with more direct impact on the elections of those decisionmakers.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 1/31/2019)

SEN. McCONNELL: “[W]hat my friend the Democratic leader is asking unanimous consent to pass is partisan legislation from the Democratic House of Representatives relating to American elections. This is the same Democratic House that made its first big priority in this Congress a sweeping partisan effort to rewrite all kinds of the rules of American politics—not to achieve greater fairness but to give themselves a one-sided political benefit. The particular bill the Democratic leader is asking to move by unanimous consent is so partisan that it received one—just one—Republican vote over in the House. Clearly, this request is not a serious effort to make a law. Clearly, something so partisan that it only received one single solitary Republican vote in the House is not going to travel through the Senate by unanimous consent. It is very important that we maintain the integrity and security of our elections in our country. Any Washington involvement in that task needs to be undertaken with extreme care and on a thoroughly bipartisan basis. Obviously, this legislation is not that. It is just a highly partisan bill from the same folks who spent 2 years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia and who continue to ignore this administration’s progress in correcting the Obama administration’s failures on this subject in the 2018 election….” (Sen. McConnell, Congressional Record, S. 5080, 7/25/2019)


House Democrats Agree That Removing Election Control From States And Giving It To Washington, D.C. Is ‘Really What This Bill [H.R.1] Is About’

SEN. McCONNELL: “Perhaps most worrisome of all is the unprecedented proposal to federalize our nation’s elections, giving Washington D.C. politicians even more control over who gets to come here in the first place. Hundreds of pages are dedicated to telling states how to run their elections, from when and where they must take place, to the procedures they have to follow, to the machines they have to use.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 1/29/2019)

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA), House Administration Committee Chair: “I would just note that I understand the gentleman's objection to federalizing federal election eligibility, but that’s really what this bill is about.” (U.S. House of Representatives Administration Committee, Markup, 2/26/2019)


Sen. McConnell Has Long Insisted On ‘The Primary Role Of The States And Localities In Election Administration’

SEN. MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY), 2001: “Election reform is an issue upon which there is much consensus. Everyone agrees we should provide resources to States and localities to improve their systems and election administration. The differences are primarily in approach. One aspect in dispute is the suitable role for the Federal Government in this process, whether it should mandate specific technologies and administrative practices which traditionally are the 50 States' prerogative. The McConnell-Schumer-Torricelli-Brownback bill, as Senator Schumer has stated, takes a carrot rather than a stick approach. Our bill recognizes that the conduct of elections in New York City varies dramatically from that in Paducah, Kentucky. Their needs are different, so their processes have evolved differently over the years…. Rather than dictate from Washington, we should empower the States and localities with essential data from a centralized source, as well as provide financial resources overseen by experts in this area.” (U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee Hearing, 6/27/2001)

  • SEN. McCONNELL, 2002: “The Dodd-McConnell bill before the Senate incorporates three key principles contained within the original McConnell-Torricelli bill put together over a year ago. No. 1, Respect for the primary role of the States and localities in election administration. The Constitution's 10th amendment too often get short-shrift around here, but we tried mightily in this compromise to respect it. I will say this bill treads more than I would like on state prerogative but it does so a good deal less than with some of the interest groups out there would like and which some other bills have proposed.” (Sen. McConnell, Congressional Record, S. 712, 2/13/2002)
  • SEN. McCONNELL, 2002: “This conference report will help make all elections more accurate, more accessible, and more honest, while respecting the primacy of States and localities in the administration of elections. For the first time ever, the Federal Government will invest significant resources to improve the process, roughly $3.9 billion. Every State will receive funds under this legislation, and the smaller States are guaranteed a share of the pot. The funds will be used by the States in a manner they determine best suits their needs, rather than the Federal Government prescribing a one-size-fits-all system. Whether it is by replacing a punchcard or a lever voting system or educating and training poll workers, States are provided the flexibility to address their specific needs.” (Sen. McConnell, Congressional Record, S.10419, 10/15/2002)


There Had Been Bipartisan Agreement That ‘States Should Be Firmly In The Lead For Running Elections’

Bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report: ‘States Should Be Firmly In The Lead For Running Elections. The Country’s Decentralized Election System Can Be A Strength From A Cybersecurity Perspective’

BIPARTISAN SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE REPORT: “DHS and other federal government entities remain respectful of the limits of federal involvement in state election systems. States should be firmly in the lead for running elections. The country’s decentralized election system can be a strength from a cybersecurity perspective, but each operator should be keenly aware of the limitations of their cybersecurity capabilities and know how to quickly and properly obtain assistance.” (Report Of The Select Committee On Intelligence, United States Senate, On Russian Active Measures Campaigns And Interference In The 2016 U.S. Election, Volume 1: Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure With Additional Views, 7/25/2019)


Back In 2016, Even Nancy Pelosi And Harry Reid Said They ‘Would Oppose Any Effort By The Federal Government To Exercise Any Degree Of Control Over The States’ Administration Of Elections’

SPEAKER RYAN, LEADER McCONNELL, LEADER NANCY PELOSI, AND LEADER REID: “[T]he Department of Homeland Security stands ready to provide cybersecurity assistance to those states that choose to request it. Such assistance does not entail federal regulation or binding federal directives of any kind, and we would oppose any effort by the federal government to exercise any degree of control over the states’ administration of elections by designating these systems as critical infrastructure.” (Speaker Ryan, Rep. Pelosi, Sens. McConnell and Reid, Letter to Todd Valentine, President, National Association of State Election Directors, 9/28/2016)



Related Issues: National Security, Homeland Security, Campaigns & Elections