Deadline: today and ongoing – If there’s one thing former Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been unequivocal about, it’s foreign interference in our elections – the subject of the entire first part of the Special Counsel’s Report, and a theme Mueller emphasized repeatedly in his May 27 statement.
The Report lists many forms of election interference, but one challenge stands out: election security doesn’t get enough funding. The U.S. spends $650 to $700 billion on defense – that’s ¾ of a trillion dollars; $55 billion on homeland security; and $16 billion on cybersecurity in the defense department alone. Yet somehow we can’t manage to find more than $380 million to budget for election security, and we don’t even actually spend that. Election experts have been calling for more funding for years, but the calls have become much more urgent since the 2016 election made it clear how much of a threat we face.
The Mueller Report wasn’t news to those who’ve been paying attention: our intelligence agencies reported that Russia interfered in our 2016 elections as early as January 2017, and recently stated that Russia and China intend to do so again in 2020. To counteract these threats, a report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine calls for all local, state and and national elections to use only “human-readable paper ballots” by 2020, and security experts at Stanford listed 45 recommendations emphasizing the need for a multi-disciplinary nationwide effort.
This is as much an issue of national security as an armed threat. If we spend hundreds of billions on military expenditures and militarizing our borders but leave our elections undefended, we’re lowering the front gates while leaving the side doors wide open. Even worse, we do so knowing we were attacked in the past, are currently being attacked, and will be attacked in the future.
The House of Representatives is taking the issue seriously: the House Appropriations Committee voted for an appropriations bill with $600 million for election security to the proposed budget for 2020 (see page 70 of this PDF of the budget), and this money was part of H.R. 3351, the budget bill which the full House passed by a vote of 224 to 196 on June 26. The Senate is another story, however, repeatedly stalling election security bills.
What you can do:
1. Contact your Members of Congress to urge them to treat election security funding as a national security issue.
What to say if your representative is Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) or Barbara Lee (CA-13):
My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Rep. _________ for voting for $600 million for election security in the 2020 budget. I’d like them to speak out publicly to persuade the public and their colleagues that election security funding is an issue of national security.
- Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
- Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
What to say if your representative is Eric Swalwell (CA-13):
My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m disappointed that Rep. Swalwell did not vote on H.R. 3351, which funds $600 million for election security in the 2020 budget. I’d like him to speak out publicly to persuade the public and his colleagues that election security funding is an issue of national security.
- Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065
What to say to our Senators:
- To Senator Dianne Feinstein, on the Senate Appropriations and Intelligence Committees (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841:
My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. The House Appropriations Committee has authorized $600 million for election security. I’d like the Senator to use her position on the Appropriations Committee to resist any attempts to remove election security money from the final budget, and also work to persuade her Senate colleagues that election security funding is an issue of national security.
- To Senator Kamala Harris, on the Senate Intelligence Committee (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553:
My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. The House has voted to authorize $600 million for election security in the 2020 budget. I’d like the Senator to work to persuade her colleagues that election security funding is an issue of national security.
2. Spread the word to people in other states, particularly those whose Senators are on the Senate Appropriations Committee (they will decide if election security funding remains in the budget) or the Senate Intelligence Committee (they’re in the best position to understand the details of foreign interference in 2016 and 2018).
Photo of Vladimir Putin by the Kremlin