As a veteran who has served my country with honor and pride, defending democracy and American values both abroad and at home has been ingrained in my sense of duty. When it comes to the American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act, an election reform bill being advanced by the House GOP, I believe it unnecessarily restricts voting while doing little to address the real security threats to our Democracy.
While the authors will say that this bill will improve confidence in our voting process, the ACE Act fails to safeguard our democratic process by ignoring best practices in election integrity, limiting the assistance of nonprofit cybersecurity experts, and restricting funds needed for critical infrastructure upgrades.
It is a grave misconception that in order to secure elections you must limit accessibility. Numerous proven best-practices exist to fortify our elections without disenfranchising eligible voters. These practices include investing in cyber and physical security, improving list maintenance, and updating voter rolls through tools like Secure Automatic Voter Registration, or SAVR.
Yet, regrettably, the ACE Act ignores these proven best practices, to make it easy to vote and harder to cheat, missing an opportunity to implement comprehensive measures that truly secure our elections. Instead, the ACE Act places unnecessary burdens on both voters and election administrators, complicating an already intricate process and potentially leading to unintended consequences, such as voter suppression and reduced voter turnout.
In the face of evolving foreign threats, including a major ransomware attack from Iran during the 2020 elections, our election system’s resilience depends on the support of cybersecurity experts. Nonprofit professionals have played a pivotal role in assisting elections offices with their expertise, bolstering the system’s defenses against digital attacks. Unfortunately, the language used in the ACE Act opens the door to punitive measures that could threaten the nonprofit status of these organizations for simply helping elections offices respond to sophisticated cyber threats. Such restrictions would hinder the flow of critical knowledge and support, leaving our elections more vulnerable to foreign interference.
Investing in the technology, capacity, and physical security of elections offices is paramount to ensure the long-term integrity of our elections. Local Election Offices in particular are at the forefront of our democratic process, and they need to regularly upgrade their equipment and adapt their facilities to ensure elections run smoothly. However, rather than encourage investment in these elections offices that desperately need assistance, the ACE act further restricts federal security grants and limits resources for local elections offices. Rather than empowering these offices with the necessary tools and resources to enhance their capabilities, the act inadvertently undermines their ability to provide accessible and secure elections.
As a service member, I have proudly defended democracy and American values overseas. But, it is equally crucial that we defend those values at home, within our own electoral system. The ACE Act’s shortcomings raise concerns about the adequacy of its impact on preserving the democratic principles we hold dear.
As a nation, we must remain vigilant in safeguarding the integrity of our electoral process. It is essential that we pursue legislation that prioritizes both security and accessibility, drawing upon proven best-practices to achieve a robust and fair democratic process. Only through a united effort can we uphold the values we have fought so hard to protect both on international soil and within our nation’s borders.
Rick Blakemore is a Vietnam War Veteran who served in the U.S. Navy as a Quartermaster for 6 years. He is a member of VoteVets, a progressive political action committee and 501 nonprofit organization, and a resident of Carlsbad, Calif.