Congress must not ignore the ‘flashing red light’ on election security
© Greg Nash

In a Senate hearing on Wednesday, technology experts testified that Russia and other foreign actors are continuing efforts to influence our elections. Meanwhile, intelligence agencies have already identified cyber threats against states’ election systems and made clear that this year’s midterm elections remain a target for disruption. If we do nothing, the very fabric of our democracy will be put at grave risk.

The Republican-led Congress, however, continues to ignore this threat, even as Trump administration officials acknowledge that election security is a major concern. When House Republican leaders brought an appropriations bill to the Floor in July, they did so without providing funds to assist states in making their voting technology secure, accurate, and verifiable. House Republicans unanimously rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyCongress must not ignore the ‘flashing red light’ on election security Midwife: Lack of diversity in profession hurts pregnant women of color Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia MORE (D-Ill.) to provide those resources, and Senate Republicans rejected a similar amendment last week.

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In the aftermath of the disputed 2000 election, which first exposed the vulnerabilities in our voting systems and the myriad ways different states secure their elections, I authored the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). At the time, no one doubted the need for federal help in securing Americans’ right to have their votes counted accurately, and HAVA passed with bipartisan support and was signed by President George W. Bush. It was HAVA that established the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which provides states with grants to improve election security and promotes best practices. It is thanks to the EAC that Americans no longer have to worry about “hanging chads.”

In 2018, though, it isn’t chads or punch cards we need to worry about – it’s hackers and voting systems that cannot be verified. After learning of what Russians and other bad actors have already done in trying to break into states’ voting systems, few today doubt the continued need for federal support for states to secure their election infrastructure. That’s why ensuring that the EAC and the states all have the resources to improve election security is critical – and why the amendments offered in both the House and Senate were so timely.

Securing our elections – and, in doing so, trust in our democratic system of government – must not become a partisan issue. It is foundational to who we are as a nation: America is a country where the people choose their leaders. If Congress does not send the strongest possible signal that it wants the EAC to collaborate on an ongoing and vigorous basis with state and local election officials and security experts to protect voting systems, ours could soon be a country where foreign hackers cause voting systems to break down, sowing uncertainty and leading to disputed elections, or worse – picking and choosing our leaders for us.

We know the Russians and others have not only continued their attempts to hack our voting systems – but that they’ve ramped up their efforts in advance of our upcoming midterm elections. The time to address this challenge is now, and the best way to do so is by ensuring that the EAC and the states can do their jobs.

The Director of National Intelligence has said there is a flashing red light, similar to the one that happened before 9/11. I spoke on the floor of the House when we considered Rep. Quigley’s amendment and said that flashing red light calls us to action today. We must not ignore this challenge; it would be dangerous and irresponsible for Congress to do nothing.

I hope Republicans across the country, while home this August, will hear from their constituents about how concerning this attack on our democracy is and how urgently our people want their elected officials to protect voters and keep our elections safe, secure, and always reliable.

Hoyer represents Maryland’s 5th District.