- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2019

Several candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 have signed on to a bill requiring elections to be conducted using backup paper ballots.

Introduced on Thursday by White House hopeful Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Election Security Act has garnered the support so far of 38 co-sponsors, all Democrats or independents, including six others currently campaigning to compete next year against President Trump.

In addition to Ms. Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, the bill is favored by Democratic primary rivals Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

A companion bill offered last week in the House by Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi currently boasts 24 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

Proposed in response to Russian interference in the last presidential race, both bills include provisions meant to strengthen the nation’s election infrastructure against the sorts of cyberattacks waged from abroad prior to Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016 over former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, including requiring that states use paper ballots, establishing cybersecurity standards for vendors of voting systems and providing funding for states to update their election equipment.

Russian state-sponsored hackers successfully breached U.S. targets during the course of attempting to meddle in the 2016 race, including computers associated with the Democratic National Committee and election-related systems in several states, federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies previously concluded.

Several members of the Trump administration have since warned that Russia stands to meddle in the next presidential race, and revelations this week about the breach in 2016 of election systems in two Florida counties have renewed attention to the subject of security among Democrats and Republicans alike.

“We have overwhelming evidence that foreign adversaries are interfering in our elections, but we continue to do nothing to protect the integrity of our democracy. Election security is national security, and it is past time for Congress to take action,” said Ms. Klobuchar, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal elections.

In addition to mandating paper ballots and setting standards for voting equipment vendors, passage of the Election Security Act would require the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security to assess systems ahead of elections and issue recommendations addressing any threats, respectively.

“We must do everything in our power to protect our election systems from future attacks and this legislation will ensure those on the front-lines of administering elections are equipped with the tools and resources necessary to safeguard elections,” Ms. Klobuchar said in a statement.

Several other election security proposals have previously been introduced in both the House and Senate this session, including a bill offered Wednesday, the Protecting American Votes and Elections (PAVE) Act, that would require the use of paper ballots in addition to prohibiting voting machines capable of connecting to the internet.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and FBI Director Christopher Wray each warned during events last month that they expect Russia will continue to attempt to interfere in U.S. elections.

More recently, lawmakers in Florida learned this week that the Russian hacking campaign waged during the 2016 race compromised system in two counties, not one as previously reported, prompting complaints among congressmen over the government’s response.

“A foreign military attacked our election system and at this time our own military doesn’t even know the location of those attacks. We have to do better,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican.

“We must have integrity and trust in our election systems,” he said.

Russian hackers managed to breach the counties by compromising a vendor used by both, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters after being briefed by the FBI this week. No votes were altered as a result, he said.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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