Three years after we heard the first reports about Russian meddling in the 2016 election comes the news that it might have been worse than we thought.

According to a bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee (on which both of Maine’s senators serve), computer hackers from Russian military intelligence probed the election systems in all 50 states. In one of them, Illinois, the hacker was in position to change votes or otherwise alter information, but, for an unknown reason, chose not to.

A report like that from the Intelligence Committee, a rare institution in our government that operates under strict bipartisanship, should have been a call to action, but strangely, it was not. Republican leadership in the Senate continued to block a vote on an election security bill that would help states move to systems like Maine’s, where every electronically recorded vote has a paper backup that can be consulted in a recount.

The bill, which would also require candidates and campaigns to report offers of illegal foreign contributions or information, has passed the House but will not get a vote in the Senate, because it’s opposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

McConnell’s stance is mystifying in the wake of the Intelligence Committee’s report, but it makes even less sense when you consider the other election-security related information that came to light last week.

On Wednesday, special counsel Robert Mueller testified about the 2016 Russian interference campaign to two different House committees. Mueller has been criticized for not resolving every question, but he left no room for doubt about where he stood on Russia. Mueller, who was appointed head of the FBI just weeks before 9/11, said, “Over the course of my career I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s efforts to interfere in our election is among the most serious, and I am sure that the committee agrees.”

If that wasn’t enough, current FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that all this is not just a history lesson, but also an ongoing threat. “The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections,” Wray said.

McConnell made a speech Monday, saying that Congress has already taken action to protect elections and the criticism he’s facing is a modern form of McCarthyism, but it  should be clear that he is inviting more meddling in 2020, not only from Russia, but from other hostile foreign powers and non-state actors as well. Now that Russia has shown the world how easy it is to get inside our election systems, we should expect to see more interference, not less.

There’s not much time left to make the 2020 election as secure as possible.

 

 

 

 


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