With the 2020 election approaching, Presidential candidates are sharing their views on how to protect election security. Although candidate engagement with the issue ranges from detailed plans to single sentences in online platforms, election security is beginning to play a larger role in national conversations about democracy and national security. Below is a summary of where the Democratic presidential candidates stand in terms of strengthening election security. This post will be updated as more candidates offer their own plans and views.
Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are co-sponsors of one of the most comprehensive plans is the Secure Elections Act, S. 2261, introduced by Republican Senator James Lankford. The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create an advisory panel charged with developing detailed standards for the purchase and operation of voting systems. DHS would then fund state efforts to implement the panel’s recommendations. Finally, the plan would create a “Hack the Election” competition to increase early detection of election cybersecurity threats. Notably, the legislation has achieved bipartisan acclaim. Its primary sponsor is Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and two other Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors. Despite this bipartisan support, opposition from President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have stalled Senate consideration of the bill, according to the New York Times. For more, visit Sen. Harris website and Sen. Klobuchar website.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has offered her own detailed election security proposal. Citing Russian interference in the 2016 election and outdated voting systems used by many states, Senator Warren calls for paper recording of vote tallies, post-election audits, and mandatory cybersecurity training for state election officials. Her plan would require the use of federally provided voting machines, a uniform federal ballot, and the development of a “security firewall” similar to Fort Knox. For more, visit Sen. Warren website.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has also been vocal on election security issues. She has called for increased cybersecurity training for military officials and worked with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to propose a national commission to investigate election security vulnerabilities. The commission would be tasked with reviewing election interference in 2016, review incidences of election interference in other countries, and making “a full and complete accounting of what emerging threats and unmitigated vulnerabilities” exist at all levels of government. For more visit, Sen. Gillibrand website.
Sen. Michael Bennet
Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) has proposed, among other reforms, requiring social media companies to prohibit foreign nationals from publishing political ads on their sites. For more, visit Sen. Bennet website.
Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX)
Rep. O'Rourke's platforms calls for improvements to election security that will "aggressively tackle interference in our elections." He specifically lists federal funding for states seeking to bolster their cybersecurity standards, provide paper balloting, and conduct "risk-limiting" election audits. Similar to Senator Bennet, he also mentions requiring social media sites to "disclose sponsors of political ads on their sites."
Vice Pres. Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Cory Booker, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg - no detailed proposals yet
Still other candidates, including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Pete Buttigieg, have recognized the importance of election security in public statements or through their online platform, but have not issued detailed proposals on how they would address the issue. For more, visit the websites of Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders, Sen. Booker, and Mayor Buttigieg.
Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang believes that “Americans should be able to vote via their mobile device, with verification done via blockchain.” Other candidates have offered a range of ideas to address threats to election security. Former Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and former Congressman John Delaney (D-MD) have each proposed the creation of a federal office designed to coordinate cybersecurity efforts, specifically including election security.
Pres. Donald Trump
President Trump’s 2020 campaign website highlights his administration’s sanctions against Russian entities, the expulsion of Russian diplomats, and creation of “the Election Infrastructure Government and Sector Coordinating Councils” as key election security achievements. These claims, however, conflict with public statements from the President, who has repeatedly waivered on whether he believes Russia interfered in the 2016 election at all. As recently as last week, President Trump appeared to joke about election interference commenting in a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit: "Don't meddle in the election, please." As noted above, President Trump has publicly opposed bipartisan legislation that aims to protect election infrastructure.
Given the prominence of election security concerns surrounding the 2016 election, it comes as no surprise that candidates are proactively addressing the issue in the run up to the next Presidential contest. A 2018 poll shows that 70% of Americans believe that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and 68% believe that the administration has not taken sufficient action to protect the election system from interference. As both Democratic primary candidates and President Trump tout their election security goals and accomplishments, it is clear that the issue will play a prominent role in the 2020 race.