Bill Meant To Protect Elections From Foreign Interference Killed At White House's Request

The White House has shut down the Secure Elections Act, a bi-partisan bill that proposed significant changes to state voting systems with the aim of strengthening the nation's ability to fight election interference. The bill was set to be reviewed on Wednesday morning by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, chaired by Republican Senator Roy Blunt, in advance of a full Senate vote in October. However, Senator Blunt cancelled the review without any further explanation, reportedly at the White House's request.

Yahoo! News reports that the Secure Elections Act had strong bi-partisan support. The bill was introduced by Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma in December, 2017. The bill was co-sponsored by prominent Democratic Senators Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. On the Republican side, Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine acted as co-sponsors.

The bill had several important provisions. Vox reports that the Secure Elections Act would make three significant changes to the way states protect their voting systems:

  • Grant security clearance to each state's top election official to receive information about threats.
  • Formalize information-sharing practices about election interference between states and the federal government, particularly the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Mandate that each state performs an audit following a federal election and incentivize the purchase of voting machines that leave a paper record of each vote.
The bill also contained provisions for a technical advisory board to establish best practices for election cybersecurity.
Blunt stated the bill was postponed because Republicans pulled their support due to concerns raised by secretaries of state, according to CNN. However, in her statement to Yahoo! News, White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters commented on the bill being suspended, citing concerns from the Trump administration.
"[The administration] appreciates Congress's interest in election security, [the Department of Homeland Security] has all the statutory authority it needs to assist state and local officials to improve the security of existing election infrastructure. We cannot support legislation with inappropriate mandates or that moves power or funding from the states to Washington for the planning and operation of elections."
New York Magazine reports that following the announcement of Wednesday's delay, the sponsors of the bill expressed disappointment and frustration with Congress. Senator Lankford issued a statement.

"Congressional inaction is unacceptable. This problem has been at the forefront of many Americans' minds as more news has come to light about the extent of the threats we face."