Election-Security Bill Passes House but Senate Vote Is Unlikely

WASHINGTON (CN) – House Democrats passed a third bill Wednesday afternoon aimed at stopping foreign interference in American elections, but like the two others that came before, it is unlikely to see a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

In this October 2018 file photo, voters cast their ballots ahead of the Nov. 6 general election in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

The Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy, or SHIELD, Act, passed the House in a 227-181 vote, following condemnation from Democrats over two similar election security bills that were killed this week by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“These concerns go back to the earliest days of our country,” said California Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who sponsored the bill and chairs the House Administration Committee, before quoting George Washington. “Foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of a federal government.”

The bill seeks to increase transparency for political campaigns, parties and political action committees by requiring them to report any attempt by a foreign government or individual to influence an election to the Federal Election Commission and the FBI.

It further restricts campaigns from sharing nonpublic campaign material like internal opposition research and polling data with foreign governments or those under sanctions, which former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was accused of doing.

“Campaign members should report foreign interference, not welcome it,” Lofgren said on the House floor Wednesday.

Adav Noti, chief of staff at the nonpartisan election watchdog Campaign Legal Center, applauded the effort in a statement ahead of the vote.

“The SHIELD Act would add protections to require candidates and political committees to notify law enforcement authorities when foreign powers contact them to provide campaign assistance,” Noti said via email. “And importantly, it strengthens transparency requirements for online political ads because voters have a right to know the sources of ads purchased to influence their vote.”

But the passage of the SHIELD Act is merely a symbolic win for House Democrats, as its death in the GOP-controlled Senate is all but guaranteed. It marks the third time this year the House passed similar election security bills, and the previous two did not get a vote in the Senate.

Republican pushback on the bill was on full display Wednesday, with conservative lawmakers voicing concerns it would violate candidates and political donors’ freedom of speech and tread on states’ rights to oversee elections. Leading the criticism was Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Ill.

“The greatest threat to our nation is partisanship – when you have one side dragging partisan legislation to further their agenda it causes inaction… we cannot afford inaction,” said Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee.

Davis said the SHIELD Act wouldn’t help address campaign financing or security issues and would instead threaten free speech without addressing the steps Russia took to influence the 2016 election.

“We need serious election legislation that won’t infringe on Americans’ First Amendment rights,” he said.

Republican House members also pointed to organization who oppose the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a letter sent to lawmakers, the ACLU said it supports restricting foreign interference in U.S. elections but “the SHIELD Act goes too far by placing a complete ban on truthful, nonmisleading issue advocacy to the detriment of the public and the First Amendment.”

The letter, signed by ACLU National Political Director Ronald Newman, took particular issue with the ban on sharing information with foreign entities just because it’s not publicly available.

“Restrictions on the communication of truthful information must be narrowly tailored to achieve the government’s interests,” he wrote. “This provision would be unconstitutionally overbroad.”

%d bloggers like this: