EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., introduced legislation Thursday to ramp up criminal penalties against those who attempt to interfere with the election process, hours after the Justice Department announced that a number of mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania had been thrown away.
The “Securing Our Elections Act” would increase the penalty for tampering with or interfering in a federal election from five years in prison to between five and fifteen -- as well as a $100,000 fine.
“Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of America’s democracy, and they must be preserved,” Loeffler said in a statement. “But the threat to our democratic institutions is increasingly evident even today, with a number of ballots in Pennsylvania being discarded without reason.”
Loeffler was referring to an announcement by the Justice Department that investigators had discovered that a number of military ballots had been discarded in the key swing state. They said that so far nine ballots had been recovered: seven of which had been cast for President Trump and two others had been resealed and the contents were unknown.
Although just a small number of ballots, it will fuel concerns by Republicans and President Trump about the risks attached to the expansion of mail-in voting being implemented in many states due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as long-standing fears about voter fraud. Despite those concerns, most voting rights experts have said that mail-in voting and absentee ballots are a safe and secure way to cast a ballot.
“With the potential for voter fraud and ballot tampering at our doorstep, we must do everything in our power to crack down on bad actors and ensure the integrity of our elections,” Loeffler said.
President Trump told Fox News' Brian Kilmeade on his radio show Thursday that mail-in ballots are a "horror show" and missing ballots are "emblematic of thousands of ballots" that could get lost this election season.
Fox News' Vandana Rambaran contributed to this report.