POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Menendez calls for $2.5B to help strengthen election systems

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Brandishing a copy of the Mueller Report, Sen. Bob Menendez emphasized its findings about election security during the last presidential campaign and election and proposed spending $2.5 billion over 10 years to make the system more resilient.

“The Russian government carried out a sweeping and systematic attack on the 2016 election and the Trump campaign actively welcomed it. Second, the president repeatedly tried to undermine and obstruct the special counsel’s investigation into that interference,” Menendez said.

Menendez argued that the obstruction continues. This weekend, in fact, President Donald Trump continued to assail the Mueller Report as a political hoax.

“The radical, liberal Democrats put all their hopes behind their ‘collusion delusion’, which has now been totally exposed to the world as a complete and total fraud,” Trump said on April 27 in Wisconsin.

Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney warned White House officials not to mention Russian election activity to the president, The New York Times reported, because Trump believes it delegitimizes his election victory.

But Menendez says the U.S. election system remains vulnerable to future attacks — noting that Mueller’s report underscored previous intel that Russians hacked 21 state elections systems, not including New Jersey’s and installed malware at a voting technology company’s computer network. Sen. Marco Rubio told The New York Times that Russian hackers could have tampered with rolls of registered voters in one Florida county. The FBI fully expects renewed cyberattacks.

“Our adversaries are going to keep adapting and upping their game, so we’re very much viewing 2018 as just kind of a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray on April 26.

Menendez’s bill will give states grants to implement paper ballots, conduct postelection security audits and upgrade cybersecurity standards. Last year, the state got a $10 million federal grant. Part of it is funding a pilot project in four counties to test voting machines that keep verifiable paper records. It would take up to $60 million to convert all of New Jersey’s machines to optical scanners. The state’s also developing an intruder detection system after one public policy group last year gave Jersey a “D” for election security.

“One of the big problems is, of course, people lost trust and faith in the system, and that’s something we believe is a key and vital role to the Office of Homeland Security, ensuring that and making sure the public is very clearly aware that the election system is secure and it is just fine to vote here in New Jersey,” said the director of New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Jared Maples.

“It’s time for Congress to do what President Trump will not — defend the security of our elections, defend our democracy, and therefore defend the sovereignty of this nation,” Menendez said.

A similar voting security measure died in Congress last year. Menendez is hoping that information in the Mueller Report will motivate Republicans to support this measure.