Election Security & Voting Rights
The legitimacy of our democracy depends on our free and fair elections. Recent actions by foreign adversaries as well as by elected officials threaten both the integrity of our election systems as well as the voting rights of American citizens.
The leaders of our intelligence community and Special Counsel Robert Mueller unanimously concluded that the Russian government conducted an influence campaign to support its preferred candidate, now-President Trump, in our 2016 presidential election. Leaders on both sides of the aisle agree that foreign cyberattacks and disinformation efforts jeopardize future elections, including the upcoming 2020 presidential and Congressional elections. This threat has already demonstrated its effects in Maryland. In the summer of 2018, I spoke out about a Russian oligarch’s affiliation with the company that hosted Maryland’s voter registration, candidacy, and election management system; the online voter registration system; online ballot delivery system; and the unofficial election night results website. I urged Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to order an investigation and led members of the Maryland Congressional delegation in successfully requesting that the Department of Homeland Security accept the state’s request for assistance to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
I’m working across the aisle to build support for my Election Systems Integrity Act, which would require disclosure of foreign ownership of election service providers to state officials. We should also increase federal investment in our state and local electoral systems to harden their election infrastructure, reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and upgrade and replace outdated election systems.
At the same time, some of our own state legislatures and the Trump Administration are undertaking policies to make it more difficult for American citizens to exercise their right to vote. These tactics are enabled by the Supreme Court’s regrettable 2013 Shelby County decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, legislation which had worked successfully for decades to reduce racial discrimination in voting. Since then, incidents of purging eligible voters from the rolls and misinformation campaigns have increased significantly, making clear the need to fully restore the law.
In the meantime, I have introduced legislation, the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, to prohibit and create penalties for intentionally spreading misinformation with the intention of suppressing votes, given what happened in Maryland and other states in the 2016 elections. I’m building support for my Democracy Restoration Act, which would restore the right to vote in federal elections to the 3.3 million formerly incarcerated individuals who are barred from doing so by state laws. Preventing citizens who have already served their sentence from voting violates the simple principles of our democracy, as returning citizens should have both rights and responsibilities upon their release. Finally, I will continue to speak out against efforts by this Administration to institute and justify voter suppression efforts. Ensuring free and fair elections through all of these strategies is one of my highest priorities.
Congress should also act to overturn the disastrous decision of the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case, which opened the door for special interests and corporate America to have an even greater influence over our political system. We can’t let dark money drown out the voices of everyday Americans. The power of our democracy belongs to the people - not corporations, not the wealthy elite. Congress should act – either by legislation or constitutional amendment – to overturn this Court decision to restore faith in and defend our free and fair electoral system.