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Blunt: The Election System Is as Secure as It's Ever Been

September 24, 2020

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, discussed the steps the Congress has taken to increase election security. Congress has provided more than $1.2 billion to help states update antiquated systems, increase their cybersecurity, and respond to COVID-19 related challenges.

Following Are Excerpts of Blunt’s Remarks:

“Madam President, I want to talk for a few minutes about securing our election process. At various times in the last four years, there have been different levels of reasons why the federal government needed to take over the election process. For a while, it was that the process was too easily infiltrated by outside influences, and then it was COVID-19, and it was important that everybody vote in different ways than had ever voted before and somehow only the federal government could manage that.

“I would say that, just as we look toward the 2020 elections, we've sent over a billion dollars, I think it's $1.2 billion in funding, from the Congress. We've had dozens of hearings, the Rules Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Homeland Security Committee, there was a three-and-a-half year bipartisan investigation that I was part of, as part of the Intel committee, and we've looked at this about every way we can. …

“Confidence in the voting process is the thread that holds the fabric of democracy together. Every time we needlessly get into a discussion about whether this process is fair or safe, I think it's harmful. Every time we need to have that discussion about whether it's fair or safe, it's, of course, not only helpful, but totally appropriate.

“But this is the time when we need to be sure that our work has brought us to a good conclusion rather than talking about the fact that the system is not going to work. The system is going to work. As the chairman of the Rules Committee, where we have the principal election jurisdiction, or as a member of the Intelligence Committee, I've spent a lot of time looking at this. I think we've been very serious in the Senate, particularly in considering these issues and at looking at the threats to our election system itself.

“I'm not going to talk much in the next few minutes about false information and other things. My view, all you have to do is turn on the television to find some false information and watch the campaign commercials. There's a nugget of truth, perhaps, but most of them, many of them, have little more than a nugget of truth in them. And sure, I'm concerned about false information.

“I'm particularly concerned about it if it comes from foreign governments, from those who wish our country ill. But there's a lot of information out there, a lot more information than there's ever been before. And people should be very thoughtful about the information that they take in. I'm not going to talk a lot about that, I want to talk about the election system itself because, in my view, the Election Day system is as secure as it's ever been, the registration system as secure as it's ever been. …

“So for 20 years, Congress has done all we can think of to help the system work better. We spent over a billion dollars in the past four years, we've encouraged that we update and have seen updated antiquated systems, systems that didn't have a ballot trail, and other things have generally all been replaced and where they haven't been, I think they're on even higher alert. We've helped them increase their cybersecurity.

“We've responded to COVID-19 with help to local governments that, in some cases, was used for establishing polling places and even maybe paying extra to election judges than we had done before. But while we provided those resources, it has been for a long time, and still is up to, local and state officials who are the closest to the people they work for, to do everything they can to secure those elections. I spent about 20 years doing that part of it as a local election official, a county official in Missouri, and part of it as the Missouri Secretary of State, the chief election official. …

“Clearly, again, there have been efforts by foreign adversaries -- Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and others -- to interfere with our elections. But we want to be sure, and I believe have been sure, that federal agencies have been providing the resources they needed to investigate bad actors, to punish bad actors, to do everything they could to protect the American election system. …

“The Rules Committee has held four hearings since the 2018 election, one on election security, one on how we're preparing for the [2020] election, and one on oversight of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In addition to that, putting people on the Federal Elections Commission to fill vacancies that had been there for a long time. The Judiciary Committee has looked into things like the social media companies that are trying to drop disinformation. Homeland Security has drawn out a roadmap and put the kinds of protections in the system that you'd want to have in the system for the equipment that counts votes, the registration system that's available on Election Day.

“The Intelligence Committee, as I said before, conducted a three-and-a-half year investigation on foreign meddling in the last election and the administration is holding those perpetrators accountable. The Justice Department has secured indictments against three Russian companies, 26 people involved with [the] Russian influence campaign in 2016 have been impacted by that. The Justice Department has sanctioned 46 other people and 18 businesses. …

“We don't need a federal takeover. Many of you have heard me say before that late in 2016, President Obama, said quote, ‘There is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig American elections, in part, because they are so decentralized in the number of votes involved.’ …

“The diversity of this system is the strength of the system. I personally think the best place to vote is at a polling place on Election Day. I don't always get to vote that way. But if you want to have all the information that happens between the start of the campaign and the day you vote, the only way you get that is voting on Election Day. If you want to see your ballot go into a ballot box or into the counting system and know that happened, you best get that at Election Day.

“But many people will vote in other ways, particularly this year. Usually the other ways are a little more complicated, but they're still protected by comparison of signatures in most states. They're still usually going to include an indication on the voter roll that goes to the polling place that somebody has already received another ballot.

“There are safeguards there and, for reasons we all understand, more people are going to vote earlier in this election than ever before. I know our election officials in our state, and I suspect all over the country, are planning on what they can do to still have the most information available possible on election night. But it's unlikely we're going to know everything we want to know election night.

“If you don't want to vote at a polling place on Election Day or can't vote at a polling place on Election Day, you should still vote. Confidence in everything you hear or read should not be complete, but I think confidence that the election system itself is going to tabulate the results that came in and the votes that were cast is a pretty safe bet. Politics can become heated and noisy during an election [year]. But at the end of the day, the American people need to understand that we're doing all we can to give them the ability to cast their ballots with minimal obstacles and maximum confidence that what happens on Election Day is what the voters voted to do on Election Day.”


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