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The House of Representatives is voting today on H.R. 4617, the “SHIELD Act,” legislation sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that would erode freedom of speech and federalize state and local elections. The House should reject this misguided bill. 

Election security is a serious issue. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security notified 21 states that hackers had targeted their election systems in 2016. A majority of states are using election infrastructure that is outdated and ripe for cyberattack from foreign adversaries. While there is no evidence that Russia hacked our vote totals in 2016, it is clear that hackers are testing the waters. 

Unfortunately, some Democrats are more interested in clamping down on freedom of expression for Americans than securing our elections.  

Democrats have pushed to have government take over political speech in the past. House Democrats tried introducing a number of the SHIELD Act’s provisions earlier this year in H.R. 1, the misleadingly-named “For the People Act of 2019.”  

The SHIELD Act is a wishlist of Democrat priorities that focuses on restricting the political speech of Americans instead of targeting foreign meddlers abroad.

Strangely enough, the bill does nothing to prevent troll farms, which was the primary means Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election. Additionally, nothing in the SHIELD Act would give law enforcement the resources necessary to counter foreign actors that attempt to influence our elections.  

If enacted, the SHIELD Act would: 

  • Give the federal government the responsibility of determining what qualifies as “legitimate” press/news. This is a blatant infringement on freedom of the press, and a provision ripe for abuse by left-wing bureaucrats. 
  • Allow the U.S. Attorney General to interfere in state elections, a blatant violation of the constitutional principle that states and localities have primary administration of elections. 

  • Apply television disclaimers to internet ads. A four second disclaimer (the standard on television ads) would take up half of most internet ads. 

  • Expand the definition of “electioneering communication” to include “issues of national importance,” a broad term not defined in law or regulation. In effect, this would take ads that are not political in nature and classify them as such, which would have a chilling effect on free speech. 

Thankfully, Republicans have an alternative. House Administration Committee Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) has introduced H.R. 4736, the Honest Elections Act. Instead of federalizing state and local elections, the Honest Elections Act empowers states and localities to secure their elections while upholding constitutional principles.

In reality, the SHIELD Act would do next to nothing to secure our elections while trampling all over the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.

The House should reject the Democrat-led SHIELD Act and pass legislation that would actually secure our election in 2020 and beyond.