Russia is likely already interfering in the midterm elections, and now their attempts to compromise American voting machines have one less roadblock thanks to Republicans.
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans successfully killed a Democratic amendment on a 50-47 vote that would have secured $250 million in funding for states to use to safeguard voting machine software used on Election Day. According to The Hill, Republicans argued that the $250 million in election security grants was unnecessary, as states have not yet spent all of the $380 million Congress previously appropriated for election security. Senators largely voted along party lines, though Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) sided with Democrats and voted in favor of the amendment.
“We don’t know how the first $480 million has even been spent, and the intelligence committee did an extensive research on how much money was needed and the $380 million amount was what was needed for the moment,” Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said.
This isn’t the first time Republicans have taken steps to pave the way for further Russian interference. In February, the Republican-controlled House Administration Committee voted 6-3 to abolish the Election Assistance Commission — a federal entity that exists to help states protect their election systems. The effort did not ultimately pass a floor vote, however.
While states may not have spent 100 percent of the money Congress allocated, it’s important to remember that some states still have not yet conducted primary elections, let alone the November general election, and are likely trying to make current money stretch over the next three months. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) already confirmed in February that Russian hackers targeted voter registration rolls in 21 states, and that hackers were able to successfully compromise systems in multiple states.
“2016 was a wake-up call and now it’s incumbent upon states and the Feds to do something about it before our democracy is attacked again,” former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in response to the DHS’ findings.
The recent vote to kill the election security grants amendment helps put a recent troubling survey into context. Yahoo Finance recently found that 40 percent of Republicans said they either thought it was “appropriate” or “not appropriate, but wouldn’t be a big deal” if Russia interfered in the 2018 election in order to help Republicans maintain control of Congress.
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.