Keep our elections free and fair

Greg Nash

Americans know that our government is more divided than ever. Congress is gridlocked, and much of the cable news coverage depicts Republicans and Democrats shouting at one another. When it comes to our biggest problems, certain leaders in Washington continue to place party above country, only further deepening the divide. But outside of the limelight, a growing number of Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate are setting aside their differences to address the challenge of preventing foreign interference in our elections. Our free and fair elections are the important bedrock of our democratic system. They must be protected.

The special counsel report, as well as both intelligence committees in Congress, confirmed that the “Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a sweeping and systematic fashion.” But even our national security and intelligence leaders have warned us that it was just the start. We know this because Russia was successful in undermining the confidence Americans have in their elections. About one in three believed that a foreign power was likely to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.

As reports confirm Russian interference in the recent European Union elections, we know that the United States remains vulnerable to future attacks on our elections. The question before our leaders in Washington, and every 2020 candidate for office, is whether they will now unite to protect our elections from attacks by authoritarian governments and foreign actors seeking to undermine a key foundation of our country.

That is why it is so heartening that both Representatives Sean Duffy and Mike Gallagher have joined with the more than 30 other Republicans and Democrats to sponsor the Honest Ads Act. This is the best first step to preventing foreign disinformation campaigns in our elections through increasing transparency online. In 2016, Russia and other foreign actors bought digital ads on some of the largest internet platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Google to divide citizens and weaken our country.

The Honest Ads Act would shine light on these tactics and let Americans see who is targeting them with paid ads on these same platforms. The bill would implement a sensible disclosure system for paid online political ads that Americans see on the largest internet platforms, which is the same system that is in place for radio and television ads. Outside of Congress, Silicon Valley technology companies including Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter have already thrown their full support behind the Honest Ads Act.

Representatives Duffy and Gallagher have also joined numerous Cabinet officials, governors, and more than 115 former members of Congress like ourselves from both parties who declared their support for the Honest Ads Act in a powerful letter sent to Congress when the legislation was reintroduced this spring. Many of these signers were past political rivals now united on a commitment to national security that transcends party and ideological divides. We urge our current lawmakers to do the same.

While the Honest Ads Act is only a first step, it is a vital one. It is time for our leaders to modernize our election system and protect it from future attacks. Our cybersecurity infrastructure must be strengthened, while foreign powers intending harm have to know that the United States will not back down from cyberthreats. Our leaders in Congress must work in a bipartisan fashion to keep our elections a safe beacon for the free world.

Reid Ribble and Tom Petri both served in Congress as representatives from Wisconsin. They are current members of the Issue One Reformers Caucus.

Tags Congress Election Mike Gallagher Reid Ribble Sean Duffy Security Tom Petri

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