At a recent town hall meeting in Wright County, Sen. Joni Ernst was asked why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had blocked election security bills from being debated.
In a video of the exchange with Ernst, a member of the audience said he was “baffled” by McConnell’s inaction on bills to make “our voting system more secure.”
The man likely was referring to bipartisan legislation in the House and Senate to combat hacking of state election systems, some of which McConnell has allowed to pass through the Senate.
A Democratic proposal recently approved by the House to allocate $1 billion for states to spend on election security, has met resistance, however. Part of the bill required states to put a portion of the money toward purchasing machines with backup paper ballots.
“I don’t know that he blocked a bill on that,” Ernst said Saturday, when a member of the audience brought up the paper ballot proposal.
Criticism of McConnell’s handling of election security legislation led him to address the issue early this week in a heated statement on the Senate floor.
“Last week, I stopped Democrats from passing an election law bill through the Senate by unanimous consent,” said McConnell, Monday on the Senate floor. “A bill that is so partisan that it only received one single Republican vote in the House. My Democratic friends asked for unanimous consent to pass a bill that everyone knows isn’t unanimous, and never will be unanimous. So I objected.”
McConnell’s lack of movement on certain legislation has been one of many points of contention on Capitol Hill this week, leading a Washington Post columnist to label her opinion piece “Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset.”
“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough called him “Moscow Mitch.”
At Ernst’s town hall, an audience member said the paper ballot proposal was aimed, at least in part, to “stop foreign people from coming in and helping [President] Trump get re-elected.” To which Ernst replied, “OK, there’s a lot of misinformation, I think, that exists out there.”
Ernst explained how elections and voting processes are controlled by individual states and that the “United States cannot go in and take over a state’s election system.”
“The Iowa system is one of the best systems in the United States,” Ernst said. “I would encourage other states to utilize this type of system because it can’t be hacked because we have those paper ballots. We do know that in the past — as in 2016, 2018 and as we look forward to 2020 — we do know that there are foreign governments that will try and interfere with our elections.”
Iowa’s junior senator has acknowledged Russia’s pervasive interference in the 2016 presidential election and said at the town hall, “We should do all that we can to make sure we’re protecting our election system.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
Photo by Julie Fleming