Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president

Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president
© Aaron Schwartz

2020 presidential candidate Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Lobbying world MORE (D-Minn.) on Monday published a strategy for how she would secure elections against cyber and disinformation threats if elected president, the same day she joined a group of Senate Democrats in pushing for election security funding.

In her plan, Klobuchar, who is a longtime advocate in the Senate for election security efforts, zeroed in on improving the transparency of political ads on social media, combating disinformation, and promoting cybersecurity.

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Key parts of the strategy include Klobuchar’s intention to issue an executive order that would bolster government-wide cybersecurity efforts, and launch a “cabinet-level taskforce” that would coordinate across federal agencies and with state and local governments to better address cyber threats to elections.

Klobuchar would also require states to use paper ballots as a way to prevent cyber tampering with the vote, and set “strong cybersecurity standards” for voting infrastructure.

On the disinformation front, the strategy points to passage of the Honest Ads Act as a major priority Klobuchar would pursue as president. The bill, which is sponsored by Klobuchar and Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing MORE (R-S.C.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns Senate Intel panel approves final Russia report, moves toward public release MORE (D-Va.), aims to increase transparency of who buys political ads on social media.

Klobuchar would also push for passage of legislation to make it illegal for foreign nationals to purchase election ads, and to ban social media platforms from allowing political ads that discriminate against people.

“Today, there are no protections preventing misleading and outright false political ads online,” the plan reads. “That’s why Senator Klobuchar supports preventing social media companies from running political ads full of false claims and lies by holding them responsible.”

Other portions of the strategy address voting rights and gerrymandering. Under the plan, all Americans will be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18, election day will be designated as a federal holiday, and the Federal Election Commission will undergo numerous reforms.

Klobuchar previously addressed cybersecurity concerns around elections in June, when she published a list of the first 100 actions she would take in her first 100 days in office. The issue to “prioritize cybersecurity and protect our elections” was the seventh item.

The strategy was published the same day that Klobuchar joined Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHow Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 Tom Cotton rips NY Times for Chinese scientist op-ed criticizing US coronavirus response Our national forests need protection — and Congress can help MORE (D-Colo.) in leading a group of 37 other Senate Democrats in pushing for more election security funds to be included in an upcoming 2020 appropriations bill.

In a letter to the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Klobuchar and 31 other Senate Democrats asked that the leaders support a higher level of funding for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in the next fiscal year, and that they support a higher level of funds to be given to the EAC to distribute to states for election security efforts.

The Senate Appropriations Committee in September approved its version of the 2020 Financial Services and General Government spending bill with $250 million included for election security efforts, and about $12 million for the EAC itself. This bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

By contrast, the House-passed version of the same bill included $600 million for states to improve election security, and gave the EAC just over $16 million for 2020.

The Senate Democrats argued that the funding amounts designated by the House were better in order to fully address concerns around election security headed into the 2020 elections, and asked that the committee leaders agree to the House funding levels once the bills are eventually conferenced.

“Today, more than at any other time in our nation's history, election officials face unique challenges that require federal support,” the Senate Democrats wrote. “As we approach the 2020 elections, we must ensure that they have the resources they need to combat foreign interference and ensure that every American has easy access to the ballot box.”

Four of the other 2020 presidential candidates signed the letter as well, including Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets MORE (D-N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden VP race is highly fluid days before expected pick Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden VP race is highly fluid days before expected pick Harris, Ocasio-Cortez push climate equity bill with Green New Deal roots Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic MORE (D-Calif.), and Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic MORE (I-Vt.).

Congress previously appropriated $380 million to states for election security efforts in 2018, with the EAC estimating that about 85 percent of that will have been spent prior to next year’s elections, mostly on increasing cyber protections and replacing outdated machines.

The EAC, which is charged with improving federal elections, has faced staffing shortages due to budget cuts over the last decade, and according to the letter from the Senate Democrats, has only 22 staff members.

“The security of our elections is paramount, and we are grateful for your work to ensure that state and local officials across the country have the resources and support they need as they head into another election year,” the Senate Democrats wrote.