Freshman members form bipartisan task force on election vulnerabilities ahead of 2020

Freshman members form bipartisan task force on election vulnerabilities ahead of 2020
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of freshman House lawmakers revealed Friday a Task Force Sentry that has worked behind closed doors the past two months to craft legislation to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections.

The task force, which includes six freshman Democrats and one freshman Republican, identified five key areas of vulnerabilities in the U.S. political system they hope to address with legislation.

This includes deterring foreign aggression, mandating disclosure of receiving foreign funds, preventing foreign money from funding campaigns, defining the roles and responsibilities of social media companies as such entities seek to use their platforms, and establishing monitoring mechanisms to detect and prevent disinformation campaigns.

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The task force members, who hail from a diverse range of backgrounds, quietly met with issue experts to help guide their legislation as they work to safeguard the 2020 elections.

“We believe that protecting our country from foreign adversaries should never be partisan,” Task Force Sentry members said in a joint statement.

“We come from different backgrounds, but agree it is our duty to understand and respond to threats when we see them –– and that is what we have been doing for the last eight weeks, to develop new legislation and concrete recommendations on how to prevent any foreign adversary from attempting to influence the U.S. political system again," the statement continues.

Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinHouse Dems introduce bill to fight social media disinformation Polls flash warning signs for Trump on impeachment Pelosi-backed group funding ads for vulnerable Democrats amid impeachment inquiry MORE (D-Mich.), a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official, noted in a separate statement that her state "was disproportionately targeted by Russian information warfare in 2016." 

Another member is Rep. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezCalifornia inspires other states to push to pay college athletes Lawmakers beat Capitol Police in Congressional Football Game America's colleges and universities are aggressively addressing foreign threats MORE (R-Ohio), who was formerly the chief operating officer for an educational technology development company based out of San Francisco.

“Coming from a background in the tech industry, I am struck by the vulnerabilities exposed in social media platforms through the disinformation campaign propagated by Russia over the years. There is a real threat that this could be replicated by any group or hostile nation with a mind to influence our public discourse, and I firmly believe that we as a Congress need to come together in a bipartisan manner to produce new ideas that will protect our nation now and into the future,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

Reps. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerHouse Dems introduce bill to fight social media disinformation Bipartisan lawmakers who visited Syrian border slam Trump's 'rash decision' Pelosi-backed group funding ads for vulnerable Democrats amid impeachment inquiry MORE (D-Va.), who previously served a CIA officer; Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillHouse Dems introduce bill to fight social media disinformation CNN faces backlash for video highlighting white congresswomen as impeachment leaders GOP ratchets up 2020 attacks as impeachment storm grows MORE (D-N.J.), who served as a Russian policy officer in the U.S. Navy; Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodHouse Dems introduce bill to fight social media disinformation House passes bill to revamp medical screenings for migrants at border The Hill's 12:30 Report: All eyes on Pelosi as calls for impeachment grow MORE (D-Ill.); Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) all also took part in the task force.

The announcement comes shortly after House Democrats passed a bill to require election systems to use voter-verified paper ballots as part of an effort to prevent election interference.

And while the bill passed in a largely party-line vote of 225-184, it appears unlikely the GOP-controlled Senate will take up and favorably vote to advance these bills.

Senate Democrats say they are pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to move forward with the legislation and either allow floor votes on election security bills or outright block the various pieces of legislation. The Kentucky lawmaker, however, has so far refused to bring about such votes on election security bills, pointing to concerns around federalizing elections.