Durbin, Graham Introduce Bipartisan Election Interference Bill

DETER Act would block threats like Russians who Putin sent to the U.S. to interfere with our electoral processes

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today introduced the bipartisan Defending Elections against Trolls from Enemy Regimes (DETER) Act, which will prevent foreign regimes from exploiting our immigration laws to advance their efforts to undermine our democracy.  This bill will make “improper interference in U.S. elections” a ground of inadmissibility under U.S. immigration law, and violators would be barred from obtaining a visa to enter the United States.

“In 2016, Russia committed an act of cyber war against our country, and Congress has a responsibility to take immediate action to prevent Russia’s efforts to influence and disrupt the 2018 elections,” Durbin said.  “The bipartisan DETER Act would prohibit foreigners who improperly interfere in our elections from coming to the United States to further their schemes, and bar them from entering our country in the future.”  

“As we saw in the 2016 elections, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is attempting to strike at the very heart of the democratic values, freedoms, and liberty all Americans hold dear.  By barring foreigners who improperly interfere in our elections from coming to the United States, the DETER Act sends a message to hostile nations across the world that the United States will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections,” said Graham.

The DETER Act is in response to threats like those revealed by the Special Counsel’s recent indictment of Russians who traveled to the United States with the explicit purpose to learn more about American political and electoral processes and how they could interfere with such processes.  The indictment describes how two of the thirteen individuals gathered intelligence during a three-week trip in June 2014.

According to the indictment, the individuals “falsely claimed they were traveling for personal reasons.”  While in the United States, the individuals traveled to Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, and New York “for the purpose of collecting intelligence to inform the [Internet Research Agency’s] operations.”  A third individual attempted to travel to the United States, but did not receive a visa, and an additional co-conspirator, who is not listed in the indictment, traveled to Atlanta in November 2014. 

The bill defines “improper interference in United States elections” as conduct by an alien that (1) violates federal criminal, voting rights or campaign finance law or is under the direction of a foreign government; and (2) interferes with any general or primary Federal, State, or local election or caucus, including the campaign of any candidate; or any ballot measure, including an amendment, bond issue, initiative, recall, referral, or referendum.