Nothing is more vital to the maintenance and advancement of the American experiment than the assurance that elections in the United States are conducted openly, honestly, and without interference by domestic or foreign partisans.So why not safeguard our election process? Why not protect voting and elections and democracy itself—officially and permanently?
To that end, Congressmen Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and Hank Johnson of Georgia, have introduced groundbreaking legislation—the Securing America’s Future Elections (SAFE) Act—that proposes to safeguard US elections from cyber threats and interference by permanently classifying the integrity and security of elections as a component of critical infrastructure of the country.
Arguing that that the United States needs “a comprehensive approach to secure our election process from start to finish,” Congressman Pocan says that “By making our elections a top national security priority, we can ensure cybersecurity standards for voting systems are upgraded and require paper ballots with all electronic voting machines. One thing Democrats and Republicans should agree on is that we should be doing everything in our power to guarantee the sovereignty of our county and the integrity of our elections. This bill will do just that.”
The change Pocan proposes would place elections systems in the same category as other critical infrastructure including the power grid, the banking system, and essential utilities. At the same time, the SAFE Act protects against cyber threats by requiring the use of better voting machines that provide paper ballots. And it requires random audits of ballots to thwart wrongdoing and to assure against malfunctions.
This is not the final answer to concerns about election integrity and the many challenges facing American democracy. But it is a practical and consequential beginning.
The SAFE Act legislation is a response of to reports regarding Russia’s aggressive cyber tactics during the 2016 election, one of many concerns related to the ongoing FBI investigation into whether members of President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians to influence that election. But this legislation is about more than that. It is, as well, a response to a wrongheaded vote by the Republicans on the House Administration Committee voted to shut down the Election Administration Committee (EAC), a federal agency created to help states update election systems and security. The SAFE Act reauthorizes the EAC for a period of 10 years and requires a random audit of precincts/wards in each state to ensure there are no discrepancies between paper ballots and electronic ballots.