GOP lawmakers offer new election security measure

GOP lawmakers offer new election security measure
© Stefani Reynolds

A group of House Republicans introduced legislation Friday to reduce foreign interference in U.S. elections, including by making online political ads more transparent.

Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisTechnical glitch results in hundreds of invalid voter registrations in Illinois Both sides of the aisle call for local, state, federal cooperation on homelessness Voting equipment companies throw weight behind enhanced disclosures MORE (R-Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee and the primary sponsor of the bill, told The Hill in a statement that he was putting forward the legislation due to the “unacceptable” nature of Russian misinformation efforts in the lead-up to the 2016 elections. 

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“We may never be able to prevent criminal activity, whether that’s in our elections or in our day-to-day lives, but we can provide our law enforcement with the best tools and resources available,” Davis said. “It's imperative that our elections systems are free from foreign influence, and I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will support this legislation and put the needs of the American people first." 

Republican co-sponsors of the Honest Elections Act include Reps. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartOn The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers House passes stopgap as spending talks stall MORE (Fla.), Don Bacon (Neb.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerDCCC to run ads tying 11 House Republicans to Trump remarks on entitlements Democrats launch bilingual ad campaign off drug pricing bill The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday MORE (Wash.), Bill PoseyWilliam (Bill) Joseph PoseyScientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Trump official declines to detail plans if ObamaCare struck down | DEA unveils rule for opioid manufacturers | Republican tells Zuckerberg to allow anti-vax content Poll: Women more likely to say social media has negative effect on society MORE (Fla.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingLawmakers introduce bill taxing e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaigns Democrat who opposed Trump, Clinton impeachment inquiries faces big test House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues MORE (N.Y.), Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerRepublicans, Democrats offer support after John Lewis cancer diagnosis House GOP vows to use impeachment to cut into Democratic majority A solemn impeachment day on Capitol Hill MORE (N.C.), Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikMeadows: Republicans who break with Trump could face political repercussions Jeffries, Nadler showcase different NY styles in Trump trial The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules MORE (N.Y.), Pete StauberPeter (Pete) Allen StauberGOP lawmakers offer new election security measure Hold off on anti-mining hysteria until the facts are in Overnight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine MORE (Minn.), Greg SteubeWilliam (Greg) Gregory SteubeParties clash as impeachment articles move closer to House vote GOP lawmakers offer new election security measure VA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules MORE (Fla.) and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jennifer González-Colón (R). 

The Honest Elections Act would expand the prohibition on foreign nationals contributing to campaigns to include state and local initiatives and referendums.

It would also codify existing Federal Election Commission guidance to require that all online political advertisements include a disclosure of who paid for them, such as with a “click-through” option, where the individual could click to a second page for information on who purchased the ad. 

The bill would also prohibit any federal dollars for election security to go to states that allow noncitizens to vote in elections, and would require states to forfeit all federal election security grants unless they ban “ballot harvesting,” which allows mail-in ballots to be collected without a verification system to determine who was in possession of the ballots.

Ballot harvesting is already illegal in many states. The law would allow family members or caretakers to collect ballots.

Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE found that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections in a “sweeping and systematic way,” including through hacking operations and disinformation campaigns that were intended to sway the vote in favor of now-President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE

A bipartisan report on Russian disinformation efforts in 2016 released by the Senate Intelligence Committee last week urged Congress, the Trump administration and social media platforms to take action to prevent similar interference during the 2020 elections. 

The bill’s introduction comes on the heels of a heated debate between Davis and Democratic members of the House Administration Committee over the SHIELD Act earlier this week. That legislation, which the committee approved in a 6-1 vote, required that political ads on social media platforms be subject to the same rules that those on television or radio are. 

Davis pushed back against the SHIELD Act during the committee markup, describing it as “unfixable in its current form.” Davis proposed numerous amendments, most of which were voted down by the Democratic majority, including one that would have taken out the language on new online political advertisement rules. 

One of Davis’s primary concerns with the SHIELD Act was that it might violate free speech, particularly through the regulation of online political advertisements.  

The House is expected to vote on the SHIELD Act next week, which will mark the third major election security bill to be pushed through the chamber this year. 

The first two bills, the For the People Act and the SAFE Act, were passed by the Democratic-controlled House along party lines, but have since stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate due to concerns that they may federalize elections, and that they include non-election security language. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — CDC, State Department warn against travel to China | Biden says Trump left US unprepared for epidemic | Justices allow Trump 'public charge' rule to move forward Progressive group targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment witnesses MORE (R-Ky.) had labeled the For the People Act the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

Both of these bills were marked up by the House Administration Committee, which has made voting rights and election security key issues during this Congress.