Q&A: Election integrity
Q: What is the federal government doing to protect a free and fair election?
A: As the world’s largest economy and beacon of democracy, it’s not a secret that our elections are targeted by foreign adversaries seeking to sow discord and division in the United States of America. For the last four years, Congress and the Trump administration have stepped up oversight, enforcement, and funding, to protect election security for the 2020 elections. In the U.S. Senate, we’ve examined election infrastructure and equipment, foreign influence, cybersecurity risks, counterintelligence threats and disinformation on social media. As a former chairman and current member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I led or participated in seven election security hearings that have informed public policy to protect election security and strengthen confidence in the process. I’ve co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to curb foreign meddling and online propaganda designed to undermine U.S. elections. Our intelligence community has identified Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as primary foreign government threats to our elections. The Trump administration takes these threats seriously and is working around-the-clock, so American voters can vote with confidence. Within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, including the National Counterintelligence Security Center, U.S. Cyber Command, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the National Security Agency, the federal government has every hand on deck to mitigate and identify threats to secure our elections. In addition, the Department of Justice prosecutes foreign meddling and has indicted Russian companies and individuals perpetrating election interference. The FBI investigates election-related crimes, including voter fraud and voter suppression. Since 2018, the Treasury Department has issued sanctions on nearly 50 individuals and more than a dozen entities for Russia-linked election interference, as well.
American citizens are afforded the privilege to exercise a fundamental civic duty to choose elected leaders. Voters hold public office holders accountable at the ballot box. It is imperative to our republic that we uphold the credibility of our elections process and protect the integrity of every single vote. One person, one vote, is a cherished covenant in our system of self-government. Throughout our history, this sacred foundation has strengthened our democratic institutions to ensure government serves the people, not the other way around. In 2020, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment. For all those who helped secure the right to vote generations before us, we are called to uphold the integrity of this cherished civic duty for generations yet to come.
Q: What federal resources are available to the states to administer secure elections?
A: The Constitution gives the individual states the responsibility to administer and oversee federal elections. Each state sets its own registration laws and timelines leading up to Election Day. The founders empowered locally elected officials to conduct elections where citizens live, work, pay taxes and vote. This division of power between the federal government and the states strengthens accountability and credibility in the process. What’s more, the decentralized infrastructure among the 50 states makes it more difficult for a universal hack of our elections by a foreign adversary. However, the federal government does have a hand to support states to carry out their constitutional responsibility. Congress established the Election Assistance Commission nearly 20 years ago to issue voluntary guidelines and disburse funding passed by Congress—including more than $1.2 billion during the Trump administration—to help states modernize their election infrastructure and improve cybersecurity firewalls. Recognizing the unique challenges facing each state to conduct an election during a pandemic, the CARES Act added $400 million in additional funding to help states navigate unprecedented needs, such as buying personal protective equipment for poll workers and preparing for an increase in absentee balloting.
I have confidence in Iowa’s ability to conduct a fair, secure and free election. Our state takes election integrity seriously, earning credibility among the electorate for its absentee ballot system, including service members in the military. Whether voting by absentee ballot or in person, Iowa’s Secretary of State and 99 county auditors have a proven track record that Iowans trust. Early voting for the Nov. 3 elections is underway. Iowans who want to check their voter registration, track their absentee ballot or check their polling location can find that information online or call (888) SOS-VOTE.