Senator Bob Menendez Takes Steps to Ensure Integrity of U.S. Elections

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez introduces legislation aimed at protecting the integrity of presidential elections and preventing interference like Russia had in the 2016 election. The new bill would give the Department of Homeland Security the ability to award grants to states that take extra steps to prevent election interference or hacking.

HACKENSACK – For those of a certain age, the constant talk of “Russian interference” in the 2016 election has a mind boggling quality to it. That assumes one is able to separate the event at hand with the partisan politics surrounding it.

Most baby boomers, for instance, recall a time of air raid drills in school, the Cuban missile crisis and the portrayal of Soviet Russia as truly an evil empire. The notion that this empire – minus the Soviet part – interfered big time in a U.S. presidential election is hard to grasp.

That interference, of course, is a central, yet overlooked at times, conclusion of the Mueller report. Put aside “collusion” and “obstruction of justice,” the report was exceptionally clear about the scope of Russian interference through systematic hacking and a social media campaign.

Sadly, some Republicans still may be inclined to play down Russian interference in the election simply because their guy won. That’s quite understandable in political terms given the fact some Democrats might be behaving the same way if their gal had won.

All this can make doing something to protect the integrity of the 2020 election more difficult than it should be.

Bob Menendez is trying – once again.

He met the press Monday at the Bergen County administration building to say he was introducing what he called the PRIDE Act for Protecting the Right to Independent and Democratic Elections. This bill would empower the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to award grants to states that take steps to ensure the integrity of their elections.

That would include a paper trail to back up votes cast on voting machines, post-election auditing of votes and implementation of  “best practice” cyber security standards. He said his bill would cost $2.5 billion over 10 years.

The good news here is that New Jersey voting machines are not hooked into the Internet, protecting them from hacking.

The senator offers some common sense reforms, but his bill went nowhere in the last Congress. And while Democrats now control the House, Republicans still run the Senate. This is not the type of thing Dems could pass on their own.

So what is Menendez’ strategy?

History and patriotism for one thing.

Menendez evoked the Federalist Papers and James Madison who wrote about the dangers of foreign interference in the affairs of what was then a very, very young United States of America. He also confidently asserted that he thinks Republicans “would embrace” any effort to safeguard something as vital to America as our election system.

Well, maybe. The problem, as Menendez himself articulated, is that Donald Trump minimizes any talk of Russian interference in the 2016 election, because he sees it as casting doubt on his victory. This is the type of juvenile thinking that serious Republicans should reject.

Their failure to do so is probably enough to make some bang their shoes on a desk in frustration.

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