In December 2016, we wrote an editorial with this opening sentence: “It is so fundamental, it should be unnecessary to say: Americans, and only Americans, should decide the results of American elections.”
Put another way, by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., on June 14: “I can’t believe I have to say this, but election security really should not be a partisan issue.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation found conclusively that Russian military intelligence targeted state election offices and the makers of voting machines in the prelude to the 2016 election. In the absence of powerful deterrence measures, there’s no reason to think Russia, or any other nation, won’t try again in 2020.
Republicans for the Rule of Law, a conservative group led by William Kristol whose stated purpose is “defending the institutions of our republic,” ran an ad on the Fox News Channel program “Fox and Friends” on Monday morning urging Congress to help protect U.S. elections: “If the president won’t protect our elections, Congress must.”
There is bipartisan support in Congress for election-security legislation. That is as it should be; as Sen. Warner pointed it, this should not be a partisan issue.
U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., has joined with Democrats in co-sponsoring the “Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act,” which would make it a federal crime to hack any voting systems used in a federal election.
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., meanwhile, has co-sponsored the “Deter Act,” which would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to determine, within 30 days of any federal election, whether Russia or other foreign government had engaged in election interference. If interference were to be discovered, the act would require that mandatory sanctions be imposed within 10 days on the offending nation’s banks and energy companies, among other targets.
Those bills are steps in the right direction. But there’s a mysterious roadblock in their advancement: The Senate majority leader.
Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not allowed a vote on any of the election security bills, NBCNews.com reported June 13.
This is too important a matter for McConnell to be playing politics, whatever his motivations might be. We urge him to carefully consider the words of Mitch McConnell.
“Obviously, any foreign breach of our cybersecurity measures is disturbing, and I strongly condemn any such efforts,” McConnell told reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Dec 12, 2016.
America doesn’t have clean hands in this area, to be sure. We’ve interfered in other countries’ elections over the decades to advance American foreign-policy objectives. Free elections are appealing targets to foreign governments looking to influence voters in one direction or another. For that reason, we must always be vigilant about keeping foreign influence out of our presidential campaigns, and all other campaigns for public office.
Leader McConnell should not only allow votes on the legislation to strengthen election security, he should be urging all the members of his caucus to vote in favor of it.
Because Americans, and only Americans, should decide American elections.