U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s name is coming up in connection with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a potentially uncomfortable way for such stories about election security that refer to McConnell as “Moscow Mitch.”
Also often mentioned is Lankford’s pending legislation on the subject and his warnings about the vulnerability of U.S. elections and voting technology.
Lankford, though, said he’s OK with being set up as something of a foil against the leader of his own party.
“I’ve been working on this 2½ years,” Lankford said in Tulsa last week. “When people say my name’s being dropped (into the discussion), it’s because I’ve been working on it. And I think it should actually get done.”
Lankford feels so strongly about it that he’s been going around his congressional colleagues to get security measures implemented.
“I’ve not waited on the bill to get passed,” he said. “Because I serve on Homeland Security (and) the Appropriations subcommittee for Homeland Security, I’ve met multiple times with leadership over the past several years, and they’ve started implementing the things in my bill through their own deliberate action.”
Underlying most of these efforts is an effort at greater cooperation among state and local officials and Homeland Security.
To a degree unusual for countries the size of the United States, the election apparatus is controlled by state and local governments. That makes it harder to systemically invade, but also more difficult to coordinate. For Lankford, the key minimum standard should “auditability” — a paper trail that allows election officials to verify that each vote is counted and counted properly.
The number of jurisdictions without auditable systems is shrinking rapidly, Lankford said, even as legislation that would require such systems is stalled in Congress.
McConnell has been attacked for not allowing Senate votes on two bills sent over by the Democrat-controlled House; the “Moscow Mitch” moniker has been attached by Democrats implying McConnell is complicit in Russian attempts to influence U.S. elections and hack into voting systems.
Lankford also has an election security bill, but it’s stalled largely because his co-author, Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, is running for president.
“We’ve had so many iterations of election security bills — I literally can’t even count how many iterations we’ve gone through,” Lankford said. “We’ve passed this around to every state and their secretary of state or election committee. ... We’ve gone through outside groups, we’ve gone through Republicans, Democrats on this, so I’m fully in it.”
Even with his efforts working through Homeland Security, Lankford says Congress ultimately needs to put something into law.
“The statute is important in the end because we’ll have elections in 2024, in 2028, in 2032, and I don’t want us to ever get lax,” he said. “This will be an issue from here on out. And if at some point it’s not in statute ... and if there’s not someone standing over their shoulder pushing them to do it, they’ll step back, and at that point we’ll be vulnerable.”