Our Opinion: Elections under siege from inside and out

Workers with the city of Pittsfield Building and Maintenance Department put up the voting booths in the auditorium of Reid Middle School in November 2017.

At this point, there is no denying that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election and that Donald Trump and his campaign were more than accommodating. Mr. Trump went before the cameras to urge Russia to dig up Hillary Clinton's emails and reveal any dirt it could find. If the Democratic nominee had done the same thing she surely would have been locked up.

The 2020 presidential campaign is now well underway, and even with Russian interference in 2016 an established fact, there is a real danger that Russia will interfere again on behalf of the Republican candidate. In fact, with President Trump having extended what amounts to an open invitation, it is essentially a certainty.

In a recent interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Trump said he saw nothing wrong with accepting information about his Democratic rivals from foreign governments. This is illegal under federal law, as an incredulous Ellen Weintraub, the chairman of the Federal Election Commission and an appointee of President George W. Bush, said following the interview. Given the president's regularly demonstrated disdain for the nation's basic democratic principles this statement isn't surprising, but it is dismaying nonetheless.

This disdain was again on display Thursday at the G20 summit in Japan. Asked by reporters as he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin if he would tell the Russian leader not to interfere in the 2020 election, Mr. Trump theatrically wagged a finger at the smirking Russian leader and said "Don't meddle in the election, please." (Mr. Trump, commiserating earlier with Mr. Putin about bothersome journalists, suggested "Get rid of them." Twenty-six journalists have been murdered in Russian since the totalitarian leader took office, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), many of them while investigating government abuses.)

Colluding with Russia may be a joke to President Trump but it surely isn't to Americans who have watched him divide America and break ties with European allies while fawning over dictators. The security of our 2020 elections, also a joke to the president, isn't a joke to Americans who cherish our threatened democracy. But what can be done to assure this security?

Without the help of a Republican Party that used to cherish those principles and once stood up to Communist bullies and other foreign threats, but no longer does either, precious little, at least on the legislative front.

On Thursday, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives approved the Securing America's Federal Elections, or SAFE, Act. The bill would, among other provisions, authorize $775 million in grants to help states secure their voting systems, prohibit voting systems from being connected to the internet or wireless technologies, and tighten standards for private companies that provide voting machines and other election infrastructure.

It was disappointing, but again not surprising, that the measure passed along party lines, with 184 Republicans voting against measures to assure the security of elections, which are the basic element of our democracy. And with the former party of law and order having sold out to a president who sees himself as above the law, our elections will again be vulnerable to foreign influence in 2020.

With Republicans in control of the Senate it is unlikely that the SAFE Act will pass, but Senate President Mitch McConnell will likely not even give the bill a hearing. Sen. McConnell's consistent obstructionism on essentially everything but tax cuts for the wealthy and more money for the Pentagon has stalled America in its tracks for years. By refusing to approve or even consider the SAFE Act, the majority leader and the 184 House Republicans will have signed on to President Trump's invitation to Russia and other foreign leaders to interfere with the 2020 election.

What can dismayed and angered Americans do? Vote. Vote in such numbers that they overwhelm the Russian and other cyberterrorists who will try to undermine our elections. Vote in such numbers that they will sabotage those who will try keep Hispanics and African-Americans away from the polls or who — newly emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court — will gerrymander voting districts to the advantage of white voters and the detriment of minorities. Vote to rebuild the democracy that so many have sought to weaken since Election Day of 2016.