Legislation & policy analysis

Arizona Senator Martha McSally (R) supports key election security legislation endorsed by Issue One’s “Don’t Mess With US” project

This week, Arizona Republican Senator Martha McSally co-sponsored the DETER Act (S. 1060), one of the bills in the suite of legislative proposals Issue One’s “Don’t Mess With US” project highlights as necessary to stop foreign attacks on our political system. 

In July, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) — lead sponsors of the DETER Act — sent a letter to the leadership of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, urging them to include the bill in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA). 

This is on the heels of McConnell walking back his staunch opposition to further securing our elections. 

“Foreign actors will only stop interfering in our political system when both parties respond with bipartisan legislation that punishes them for doing so,” said Issue One CEO Nick Penniman. “Every Republican and Democratic senator we talk to understands the urgency of protecting our elections and we are glad to see they are coming together and acting on it.”

Learn more about “Don’t Mess With US” at www.dontmesswithus.org.

Background on the DETER Act: 

Reporting Requirements

  • The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) must issue to Congress a determination on whether any foreign government has interfered in that election within 60 days after every federal election. The DNI must also provide identify any senior Russian political figure or oligarch that knowingly contributed to interference in a United States election.  

Actions That Will Elicit Retaliation

  • A foreign government, or an agent acting on its behalf, cannot undertake the following actions with the intent to influence an election’s outcome:
  • purchase advertisements to influence an election, including online ads
  • use social and traditional media to spread information to Americans under a false identity
  • hack and release or modify election and campaign infrastructure, including voter registration databases and campaign emails
  • block or otherwise hinder access to elections infrastructure, such as websites providing information on polling locations.

 Russia-Specific Sanctions

  • If the DNI determines that the Kremlin has once again interfered in an American federal election, the bill mandates a set of severe sanctions that must be implemented within 30 days of the DNI’s determination.
  • This includes sanctions on major sectors of the Russian economy, including finance, energy, and defense.
  •  Every senior Russian political figure or oligarch, identified by the DNI in his determination to Congress, will be blacklisted from entering the United States and will have their assets blocked.
  • The Administration is also required to work with the European Union to enlist their support in adopting a sanctions regime to broaden the impact.

 Preparing for Other Potential Attacks

  • The DNI has identified China, Iran, and North Korea as our other major foreign government cyber threats, and they may also seek to exploit American vulnerabilities in the next election cycle.