The House of Representatives passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act (SAFE Act) on Thursday, on a 225 to 184 vote. While the bill’s provisions to ensure a paper trail for American’s ballots, give accessibility and privacy for citizens with disabilities, and avoid foreign rigging would seem fairly non-controversial, just one Republican voted for the bill, along with all 224 Democrats present.
Back in 2018, the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee issued a report following its investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign illegally coordinated with Russia’s meddling efforts. The investigation and report — which drew criticism from the committee’s Democrats, who called it “superficial” — were led by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX).
While Conaway and his team said they did not find any illegal coordination by Trump, they did find significant meddling by Russia and criticized both 2016 campaigns for “poor judgment” in how they handled it. They also wrote that, “The U.S. government’s subsequent response to the Russian active measures campaign during the 2016 election was slow and inconsistent,” and urged “several solutions to help safeguard U.S. and allies’ political processes from nefarious actors, such as the Russians,” including more spending on secure elections systems.
On Thursday, the House considered a bill that aimed to address these very problems and to ensure easier access for voters. It included “requirements for voting systems, including that systems (1) use individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballots; (2) make a voter’s marked ballot available for inspection and verification by the voter before the vote is cast; (3) ensure that individuals with disabilities are given an equivalent opportunity to vote, including with privacy and independence, in a manner that produces a voter-verified paper ballot; and (4) be manufactured in the United States.”
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), who lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan and has made advocacy for wounded veterans a priority, joined the Democratic majority in supporting the bill. Conaway, along with 183 other Republican colleagues, voted no.
In a statement, Conaway said the bill would pour money “into the wrong solutions for serious problems facing our nation.”
“This bill does nothing to secure our elections, but instead wastes over a billion dollars from the taxpayers on hyper partisan federal mandates aimed at affecting election outcomes,” he wrote, adding, “Injecting more mandates from the federal government and blindly spending money will not solve our election security problems.”
The bill faces an uphill battle, given that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has blocked votes on virtually all major legislation passed in the House and has dubbed himself “the grim reaper,” killing progressive bills.