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 DavisThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump visits a ventilator plant in a battleground state The Hill to interview Mnuchin today and many other speakers The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve 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-BalartHillicon Valley: Uber lays off 3,000 | FBI unlocks Pensacola shooter's phones | Lawmakers introduce bill restricting purchase of airline equipment from Chinese companies Bipartisan bill would restrict purchases of airport equipment from Chinese companies Red-state cities get cool reception from GOP on relief aid MORE (Fla.), Don Bacon (Neb.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerHispanic Caucus endorses Washington Latina House candidate Cornell to launch new bipartisan publication led by former Rep. Steve Israel Campaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis MORE (Wash.), Bill PoseyWilliam (Bill) Joseph PoseyTrump takes track to open Daytona 500 Fed chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits Scientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule MORE (Fla.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingOn The Money: 3 million more Americans file for unemployment benefits | Sanders calls for Senate to 'improve' House Democrats' coronavirus bill | Less than 40 percent of small businesses have received emergency coronavirus loans GOP Rep. Pete King to buck party, vote for Democrats' coronavirus relief bill Bipartisan lawmakers call for Postal Service relief MORE (N.Y.), Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerJohn Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America NCAA backs plan to allow college athletes to cash in on name, image and likeness House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought MORE (N.C.), Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikBipartisan House bill seeks to improve pandemic preparedness The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve House GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 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 SteubeHouse lawmakers introduce bill for local chambers of commerce to receive PPP funding Pelosi seeks to wrangle caucus behind next COVID-19 bill The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Pfizer's Mikael Dolsten says vaccine development timeline being cut in half; House poised to pass 4 billion relief package 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) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 TrumpJustice says it will recommend Trump veto FISA bill Fauci: Nominating conventions may be able to go on as planned Poll: Biden leads Trump by 11 points nationally 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 McConnellBossie, Lewandowski warned Trump he was in trouble in 2020: report FISA 'reform': Groundhog Day edition The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter 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.