May 14, 2024 - Politics & Policy

The split reality of election threats on Capitol Hill

Illustration of binoculars with “I Voted Today” stickers in the lenses.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are telling radically different stories about the biggest threats to the election system in the run-up to November.

Why it matters: Confidence in U.S. elections cratered among Republican voters after the 2020 election, and the theories being pushed by congressional conservatives could sow even more distrust.

  • But both parties are warning the 2024 election could be tampered with, a red flag after the last presidential election.
  • House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and top Trump allies spent last week trumpeting a bill that would prohibit noncitizens from voting in elections.
  • On the other side of the Capitol this week, the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on the threats facing the 2024 election.

Zoom in: Republicans have continued to spread the conspiracy theory that noncitizen immigrants are influencing the outcomes of elections, with Johnson calling it "unprecedented and a clear and present danger."

  • Noncitizens are already barred from voting in federal elections, but Johnson suggested — without evidence — "that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections."
  • There is no evidence that such voting has ever happened on a significant scale, and the penalties for a noncitizen immigrant voting in a federal election are severe.
  • Former President Trump has repeatedly blamed allegations of fraud in the 2020 election for his loss, but those claims have been debunked.

The other side: Senate Democrats will take an entirely different focus.

  • The Intel Committee, led by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), will focus on cyberthreats facing American election infrastructure and external disinformation campaigns.
  • Warner has said the U.S. is less prepared to protect elections this year than in 2020, and there is significant concern among lawmakers about the readiness of social media platforms to combat propaganda.
  • Democrats in the aftermath of the 2016 election blamed disinformation from the Russian government for influencing the outcome of the contest.
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