[Image via WCVB]
A group of 19 bipartisan Secretaries of State and state election officials has written a letter to U.S. Senate leadership vehemently opposing legislative language in the DHS reauthorization bill that they say would allow armed Secret Service personnel at the polls. CNN has more:
More than a dozen secretaries of state slammed a rider attached to legislation to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security that would allow Secret Service to be dispatched to polling places nationwide during a federal election.
“This is an alarming proposal which raises the possibility that armed federal agents will be patrolling neighborhood precincts and vote centers,” according to the letter, which was obtained by CNN.In the letter, which was sent Friday to Senate leaders Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, the 19 secretaries of state write that they believe the proposal is “unprecedented and shocking.”
“Secretaries of State across the country agree that there is no discernable need for federal Secret Service agents to intrude, at the discretion of the president, who may also be a candidate in that election, into the thousands of citadels where democracy is enshrined,” they wrote.
Here’s the relevant excerpt of the letter, signed by 10 GOP Secretaries, 8 Democrats and one bipartisan state election commissioner:
We write to you today out of concern regarding unprecedented and shocking language currently included in Section 4012 of HR 2825, the reauthorization of the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Section 4012 allows Secret Service personnel unlimited access to polling places pursuant to the President’s direction. This is an alarming proposal which raises the possibility that armed federal agents will be patrolling neighborhood precincts and vote centers.
Title 18 of the US Code makes it a crime for a military or civil officer in the service of the United States to bring or keep their troops “at any place where a general or special election is held,” unless it is necessary to protect against an armed invasion. This longstanding and carefully crafted statute ensures the right of voters to cast their ballots under the limited authority of civil officers rather than law enforcement. Secretaries of State across the country agree that there is no discernable need for federal Secret Service agents to intrude, at the discretion of the president, who may also be a candidate in that election, into the thousands of citadels where democracy is enshrined.
The Secret Service is rejecting the characterization of the language, which still needs Senate and White House approval to become law:
The legislation has already passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, but it was not included in the Senate bill passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week.
When asked for a comment, the White House referred CNN to the US Secret Service.The Secret Service responded Monday to the Boston Globe, which first reported the story, saying the provision was “grossly mischaracterized.”
“The only time armed Secret Service personnel would be at a polling place would be to facilitate the visiting of one of our protectees while they voted,” the Secret Service said in a statement.
State officials dispute that assertion, saying that while they do not object to protective services the language in the bill is not limited to just that situation and should be clarified accordingly.
This story is noteworthy – not just for the substance of the dispute but because of the broad bipartisan pushback this bill is receiving from states. Obviously, it’s worth watching as the DHS reauthorization proceeds … stay tuned!