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Utah's Ben McAdams, other moderate Democrats in Congress, back election security measures

FILE - Congressman Ben McAdams holds a town hall at the Redwood Recreation Center in West Valley City on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019.
FILE - Congressman Ben McAdams holds a town hall meeting to familiarize constituents with district office staff as well as to provide an opportunity for McAdams to listen to Utahans on issues that are important to them at the Redwood Recreation Center in West Valley City on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019.
Silas Walker, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, has joined other moderate members of his party in backing bipartisan bills intended to protect U.S. elections from foreign interference.

"We know from the Mueller report that Russia, who is a foreign adversary, launched an attack on our nation's political system. They made a concerted effort to interfere in the 2016 election," McAdams said, as well as in 2018.

Special counsel Robert Mueller spelled out in his public statements about his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election that the country should be concerned.

FILE - Four pages of the Mueller Report lay on a witness table in the House Intelligence Committee hearing room on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2019.
FILE - Four pages of the Mueller Report lay on a witness table in the House Intelligence Committee hearing room on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2019.
Cliff Owen, Associated Press

His last words on the report were "reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American."

McAdams said it's time for Congress to respond to continued warnings from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia is "looking to interfere in 2020. They've learned from past experiences and are looking to hone their tactics."

The 4th Congressional District representative said he's signed on to three bills unveiled by the Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats at a news conference in Washington on Friday.

The bills require disclosing who's paying for online political advertising, bar foreign funding of advertising for or against a candidate, and require federal officials to alert Congress anytime election systems are hacked, such as the instance in Florida.

There is more legislation to come on the issue, McAdams said.

Next Tuesday, he and other members of a House Science, Space and Technology Committee subcommittee will hold a hearing on election security, focusing on voting technology vulnerabilities.

Among those scheduled to testify at the congressional hearing are the Orange County, California, registrar of voters, Neal Kelley, and Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax.

All states need to be aware of the threat, McAdams said, even those like Utah that have not been hacked.

"I think we are in capable hands in the state of Utah, but we should always be concerned and make sure that our technology and our efforts to protect our voting systems are up to speed," he said.

"We know those foreign powers wanting to intervene in our elections are investing a lot of time and effort to change the course of an election," McAdams said, whether by actual hacking or meddling in election campaigns.

The goal, he said, is to "make sure Americans are choosing our elected officials not a foreign adversary."

Utah Elections Director Justin Lee expressed appreciation for the attention to the issue.

"We're grateful members of Congress are aware that elections security is an onging issue that needs ongoing solutions," Lee said. "Whether Congress acts or not, elections security will continue to be a top priority in Utah."

He said elections officials "will continue to work diligently with our state and federal partners to make sure our elections are secure."

The effort by the Blue Dog Coalition is being seen as a way for Congress to move beyond the debate in the Democratic-controlled House over impeaching President Donald Trump on issues related to Mueller's findings.

McAdams is not among the more than 70 House Democrats — mostly from districts that, unlike his, not likely to be competitive for Republicans — who are ready to at least begin an impeachment inquiry.

He said election security is a pressing issue related to Mueller's findings that can garner wide support.

"We don't have any time to waste," McAdams said. "The rest of it can continue to be debated, but let's move forward on where we know there's consensus and that is protecting our country from an attack by a foreign power that wants to meddle in our elections."