Congress needs to act in a bipartisan way to protect the integrity of our voting system
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It has gotten a whole lot worse than ‘hanging chads.’

As a Floridian, I had a front seat to the constitutional crisis of the 2000 presidential election. That election cast tremendous doubt on the American tradition of ‘one person, one vote.’ But after the dust settled, Congress worked together to help states improve our elections with the Help Americans Vote Act. Why has there not yet been a similar bipartisan response to 2016?


In 2016, Russian hackers assaulted our country to subvert our election. Some have tried to deny or obscure this fact. But every U.S. intelligence agency confirms it. And yet, Congress has taken no action to stop it from happening again.

It is time for that to change.

There are two threats. The first is campaigns of misinformation (or “fake news,” if you prefer). There is a complicated debate about how best to approach this challenge.

There should be no confusion on the second. Direct assaults on U.S. election databases and voting machines are a clear threat. In my home state of Florida, hackers targeted the voter registration vendor for 58 of 67 counties. At least twenty other states were similarly targeted. At least seven states, including Florida, had their systems breached.

This will not be the last time. Russia has detected weakness, and they will be back with a vengeance.

As a former law enforcement officer, I have seen the cunning of criminals. You install a lock; they learn to pick it. You install an alarm, they learn to disable it. Russia did not do everything they wanted in 2016. They will be back in 2018 with better methods, faster computers, and shrewder strategies – and others will attempt to copy what they did. North Korea’s cyberweaponry capabilities are growing daily.

We must stay one step ahead. But right now, we are many steps behind. The security of our voting system has not kept pace with the current and emerging threats. Florida recently scored an “F” on a comprehensive election security study. No U.S. state received an “A.”

That is why last week, my colleagues and I on the Congressional Task Force on Election Security introduced The Election Security Act.

The Election Security Act gets us one step ahead of the Russians. It strengthens our election systems by mandating specific cybersecurity standards. It would require basic accountability through paper ballots. It requires that technology vendors share threats with election and intelligence officials. And it ensures we are ready for game day by running pre-election threat assessments to uncover vulnerabilities with enough time to solve them.

Additionally, the act begins the process to develop a national strategy to counter the full range of foreign interference, from misinformation campaigns to ransomware.

Protecting our democracy should be common sense. While many issues divide us, the integrity of the vote should not.

The heart of our Republic is the belief that we—the American people—should be able to choose our future. Our most fundamental right is to vote, to have our vote counted, and for that count to matter. One person, one vote. Our democracy levels the playing field. It is the last true equalizer. Let’s keep it that way.

Demings represents Florida’s 10th District and is a member of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security.