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Republican Caucus
A woman places her vote into the ballot box during the 2016 Republican Caucus, Saturday, March 5, 2016.Austin Anthony / AP

Perhaps Iowa's debacle could refocus attention on election security?

As the political world marvels at the mess in the Hawkeye State, some are turning their attention to worst-case election scenarios.


As things stand, there is no reason to believe the Iowa Democratic Party's presidential caucus fiasco had anything to do with a "hack" or a nefarious outside actor. But as the political world marvels at the mess in the Hawkeye State, some are turning their attention to worst-case election scenarios.

Take Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, who published this tweet a few hours ago.

Think #IowaCaucus meltdown is bad? Imagine very close Presidential election.

Russian or Chinese hackers tamper with preliminary reporting system in key counties.

When the official results begin to be tabulated it shows a different winner than the preliminary results online.

This is, to be sure, a scary scenario for Americans to "imagine," and I'm glad to see the Florida Republican draw attention to the possible vulnerabilities to our system of elections and those who might target it.

There is, however, just one nagging problem: Rubio's missive suggests the Senate should take up new measures to improve domestic election security, and the senator's party seems to disagree.

Let's circle back to our earlier coverage on this. It was just last summer when Rubio partnered with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on an election-security proposal called the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER Act). The idea was pretty straightforward: if U.S. intelligence agencies were to determine that Russia interfered in another federal election, new sanctions would kick in targeting Russia’s finance, defense and energy sectors.

The point, obviously, would be to create a disincentive, letting the Kremlin know in advance that Russia would face significant economic consequences if Moscow once again attacked our democratic institutions.

The bill picked up a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, and it seemed like the sort of proposal that might even have a chance in the Republican-led Senate. Those hopes were dashed in December when the GOP balked: Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) insisted the bipartisan legislation had been "designed" to be bad for Donald Trump, and must, therefore, be defeated.

The circumstances seemed familiar for a reason: the DETER Act wasn’t the only election-security measure to be rejected by Senate Republicans. The Democratic-led House last year passed the “Securing America’s Federal Elections Act” (SAFE Act), which would, among other things, require voting systems to use backup paper ballots, mandate tech safeguards, and provide resources to states to improve their election-security measures.

In October, however, when Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tried to pass a package of election-related measures – including a Senate companion to the SHIELD Act – Republicans objected.

Soon after, the House also passed the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act, which would, among other things, require candidates to notify law enforcement authorities in the event of a foreign power offering campaign assistance.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) -- who picked up the “Moscow Mitch” moniker after balking at other bills on election security -- said his GOP-led chamber would ignore this bill, too.

If Rubio remains interested in the issue, I'm glad. If he sees the mess in Iowa as the latest example of why policymakers should take election security seriously, that's great, too. But until McConnell changes his mind -- or his members use persuasion to give him no other choice -- progress on the issue between now and Election Day 2020 faces long odds.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog