News from Washington » Adam SCHIFF

Securing Our Elections: A Bipartisan Priority


In less than six months, voters across the country will begin heading to polling places and caucus meetings to cast their choice for the 2020 presidential primaries – the start of the protracted process by which we select the next president.

Elections are, of course, the mechanism that makes our government representative. And national elections aren’t the only ones that matter: there are more than 500,000 elected officials across the United States at all levels of local, state, and federal government. These people are school board members, city council members and county supervisors, state officials, judges and more. In California, one of only 14 states with direct ballot initiatives, we also vote on state laws in addition to local measures.

Put simply, elections are the bedrock of democracy and it is crucial that they are fair, secure, trustworthy, and free from illicit interference. Yet today, our democratic process faces a growing number of threats from unprecedented foreign meddling, as we witnessed in 2016, to disinformation and digital vulnerabilities made possible by rapidly changing technology. Now more than ever, Congress must do everything in its power to safeguard the integrity of our electoral process ¬¬– and we must make this a bipartisan priority.

First, we must fortify the physical and digital security of our voting infrastructure. This means protecting voting machines and other Election Day equipment that is used to collect and tabulate votes. But we also need to make sure other components of our election infrastructure, like voter registration databases, many of which are centralized and stored electronically by state election officials, are safe from hackers.

It is easy to imagine the potential for chaos if thousands of eligible voters in a competitive jurisdiction had their registrations illegitimately deleted just before Election Day. Although elections are administered and secured by state and local governments, the federal government plays an important supporting role by providing financial assistance for states to upgrade voting equipment, as well as by sharing information on threats and vulnerabilities. Congress must ensure that states are allocated the funds and resources they need to keep their voters and their elections safe. That’s why I support legislation to help states upgrade their voting infrastructure, making it more modern and most importantly, more secure.

Second, we must protect our political discourse from interference, disinformation, corruption and manipulation. In this era of online media, internet platforms, news organizations, and all of us – sharers and consumers of information – must do everything we can to ensure that facts prevail over falsehoods. With the emergence of deepfakes – pictures and videos generated through artificial intelligence that appear to be identical to the real thing – a coordinated response between the federal government, states and private sector technology companies is even more important.

At the same time, we must also continue enforcing our current campaign laws. Unfortunately, with the resignation last month of the vice chairman of the Federal Election Commission, the regulatory agency for federal elections now lacks a quorum and will be unable to take formal action – including regulating campaign spending and protecting against foreign interference – until the Senate confirms additional commissioners.

The House has led the way in passing new legislation to secure our elections. First, we passed the For the People Act, which will increase the access, integrity and security of our elections by expanding voter registration, making Election Day a federal holiday, and helping states better protect their election infrastructure. We also passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act, which requires states to use paper-based voting systems that are more secure than digital-only voting machines and allow voters and auditors to confidently inspect election results after the fact. These commonsense security measures now await a vote in the Senate. Leader Mitch McConnell and my Senate colleagues must recognize that protecting our elections is an urgent priority that transcends traditional partisan divides.

Free and fair elections are foundational to American democracy. As 2020 rapidly approaches, we must ensure this foundation remains strong.