House Leaders Aim to Secure Voting with Grants and Paper Ballots

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The bill would also create cybersecurity standards for voting systems.

House Democratic committee leaders recently introduced a comprehensive election security bill that would commit more than $1 billion in grants to secure America’s election systems and mandate states to use paper ballots for votes.

This could be the first election security directive that Congress passes since foreign actors shook up the nation’s 2016 election through a hacking and disinformation operation.

“Russia successfully attacked our elections in 2016 and it is clear they will try to again next year,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement. “Despite repeated warnings from well-respected national security officials the White House has failed to lead a whole-of-government effort to keep our adversaries out of our elections, so Congress will step up.”

Thompson, along with Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. and John Sarbanes, D-Md., introduced the Election Security Act in an effort to protect future elections from “malevolent attacks and foreign interference.” The legislation is a key provision of the H.R.1 For the People Act, which is a reform bill that was recently passed in the House and involves a total rehaul around election integrity and ethics. The standalone bill gives the Election Security Act two possible paths forward, a committee representative told Nextgov.  

Aside from requiring states to use paper ballots and authorizing more than $1 billion in funding grants to help states improve election security, the bill would also establish cybersecurity standards for voting systems vendors and require that voting machines be manufactured in the United States.

The legislation would also order voting systems to be tested nine months prior to elections and require the president to produce a national strategy around protecting democratic institutions.

Under the bill, the Director of National Intelligence would also be required to conduct threat assessments at least 180 days ahead of elections and the Homeland Security Department would be directed to expand the assistance it provides to state election officials, including expediting their security clearances.

“Nothing less than the integrity of our democracy is at stake,” Thompson said. “The American people deserve no less than full confidence in their vote.”