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 DavisShimkus says he's reconsidering retirement Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement Hillicon Valley: Senators seek national security review of TikTok | TikTok denies claims of Chinese government influence | CNN chief rips Facebook policy on political ads | Dem questions DHS' handling of personal data 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-BalartBipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill GOP lawmakers offer new election security measure Trump calls on Supreme Court to strike down DACA, says deal possible MORE (Fla.), Don Bacon (Neb.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerGOP lawmakers offer new election security measure GOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine Dems push to revive Congress' tech office MORE (Wash.), Bill PoseyWilliam (Bill) Joseph PoseyOvernight 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 Republican lawmaker tells Zuckerberg Facebook should allow anti-vaccine content MORE (Fla.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingHillicon Valley: Schumer questions Army over use of TikTok | Federal court rules against random searches of travelers' phones | Groups push for election security funds in stopgap bill | Facebook's new payment feature | Disney+ launch hit by glitches The Hill's Morning Report - Witness transcripts plow ground for public impeachment testimony Retirements pose threat to cybersecurity expertise in Congress MORE (N.Y.), Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerIntercollegiate athletics just got a two-minute warning North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats NCAA begins process to allow college athletes to be compensated MORE (N.C.), Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikKatie Pavlich: Schiff's shifting standards GOP lawmaker: Schiff should be first witness Republicans call to testify in impeachment inquiry Singer Brandi Carlile drops out of Fortune event over Kirstjen Nielsen's appearance 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 SteubeGOP lawmakers offer new election security measure VA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules Gun epidemic is personal for lawmakers touched by violence 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 MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' 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 TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report 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 McConnellMcConnell protege emerges as Kentucky's next rising star Hillicon Valley: Schumer questions Army over use of TikTok | Federal court rules against random searches of travelers' phones | Groups push for election security funds in stopgap bill | Facebook's new payment feature | Disney+ launch hit by glitches McConnell, GOP leaders say they won't be watching House impeachment hearing 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.