Mitch McConnell's shadow
Credit: Gilalo Com/Flickr

By early fall of 2016, members of the Obama administration had concluded that Russia wasn’t just attempting to interfere in the upcoming election, but that they were doing so to support Donald Trump. When they briefed a bipartisan group of house and senate leaders about Russia’s interference, the officials were primarily concerned about the hacking of voting equipment.

The intent of the intelligence briefing was to ask congressional leaders to sign off on a bipartisan statement urging state and local officials to take federal help in protecting their voter-registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions. McConnell refused the request and said that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

In the years since that time, critics of the Obama administration’s response to Russian interference have suggested that they were off the mark in focusing on voting equipment because the threat was never realized. The release of the first installment of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference suggests that the Obama administration was right to be concerned.

The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Thursday that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016, an effort more far-reaching than previously acknowledged and one largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time…

While details of many of the hackings directed by Russian intelligence, particularly in Illinois and Arizona, are well known, the committee described “an unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure” intended largely to search for vulnerabilities in the security of the election systems.

The release of that report came on the heels of Robert Mueller’s testimony, in which he stated that Russian interference in 2016 wasn’t a single attempt, “they are doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign,” Nevertheless, McConnell continues to block bills that would improve election security, claiming that they a merely partisan.

McConnell said Democrats were just trying to make political hay on the heels of the Mueller testimony in their attempt to bring up a House bill that would mandate the use of paper ballots in states’ election systems and provide additional funding to the federal, nonpartisan Election Assistance Commission.

“This is partisan legislation from the Democratic House of Representatives,” McConnell said, noting that the bill garnered just one GOP vote in that chamber and was designed to give Democrats the political upper-hand.

If the House bills are partisan, the question should be whether the majority leader is currently working on bipartisan efforts to secure our elections. We all know that the answer is “no.”

The fact that McConnell claims that mandating the use of paper ballots is an attempt “to give Democrats the political upper hand” in 2020 is an outrageous assertion, demonstrating that the majority leader has no interest in fair elections, or even giving voters reason to believe that they are fair. It is also telling that McConnell assumes that having paper ballots that can be manually counted would give Democrats an advantage.

The Senate Majority leader is now, at minimum, 2-0 on protecting our elections. Just as we’ve seen with Trump, he is sending a message to Vladimir Putin that he welcomes another attack. But it’s not just Putin. The invitation also goes out to other foreign adversaries, like China, Iran, and North Korea. You have to wonder why McConnell would be so confident that—to the extent that any of those countries interfered in the 2020 election—it would be to benefit Republicans. And if the only way for the GOP to survive politically is to invite foreign interference in our elections, the party of Lincoln has been completely corrupted.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.