“We have 8,000 different election jurisdictions, and the idea that all of them are going to have the resources, the knowledge, the skills and the ability to independently safeguard our system against foreign powers is just not realistic,” said Lawrence Norden, who has surveyed state election officials for the Brennan Center for Justice. “We need somebody to be leading on this. In some cases, individual states are. But given the threat, the idea that Congress is not going to have a role here for ideological purity, to me is insane.”
Democrats in the House majority are readying hearings and votes on election-related measures to try to force Mr. McConnell’s hand, party aides said. The House Intelligence Committee, one of the panels involved, announced Friday that it would hold a series of hearings on the Russian counterintelligence threat detailed by Mr. Mueller, including the need for additional legislation.
The votes will include one on the Election Security Act, a sweeping but partisan bill that proposes spending $1 billion in grants to state and local officials for replacing voting machines, hiring information technology staff and funding other security measures. But the bill also mandates the president develop a national strategy to fend off influence operations and disinformation campaigns like the ones Russia executed and promulgates new standards for vendors of election technology.
The House may also consider narrower, bipartisan bills Democrats hope could attract more Republican support, like the Honest Ads Act, which would force Facebook, Google and other internet companies to disclose who is purchasing political advertising, and a bill focused solely on getting states to adopt the use of backup paper ballots.
Daniel Savickas, who lobbies Congress on election-related issues for the conservative FreedomWorks, blasted the Senate majority leader for letting legislation languish: “Unfortunately, all Senator McConnell wants to do is judges these days,” he said.
FreedomWorks has advocated a more limited federal footprint, but Mr. Savickas said that “there is a role for Congress” to provide money for states to transition to paper ballot backups and to conduct “risk-limiting audits” after elections.
Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, continues to push his Defending Elections From Threats by Establishing Redlines Act, written with Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, that would impose mandatory sanctions on anyone who attacks an American election. Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Cory Gardner of Colorado, both Republicans, together with a handful of Democrats, are pressing for crippling new sanctions on Russia to increase the penalty for its past aggression.