The Election Assistance Commission, the government agency charged with distributing federal funds to support elections, released a report Tuesday detailing how each state plans to spend a total of $380 million in grants allocated to improve and secure their election systems. But even as intelligence officials warn of foreign interference in the midterm election, much of the money is not expected to be spent before Election Day. The EAC expects states to spend their allotted money within two to three years and gives them until 2023 to finish spending it. Election experts have expressed skepticism that the money will be enough to modernize election equipment and secure it against state-sponsored cyber threats.
“Nationally, $380 million sounds like a huge amount of money, but in the context of what the election officials are needing to defend, replace, oversee and mitigate, it’s really not that much,” said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser at the Democracy Fund. Federal funds were allocated to states proportionally, based on each one’s voting-age population.
As California Secretary of State Alex Padilla wrote in an opinion piece for The Hill, the $380 million isn’t even new money: “Remember butterfly ballots and hanging chads? The recent federal appropriation was simply the final disbursement of money originally approved in 2003 to address the debacle of the 2000 presidential election in Florida.”
Nearly two-thirds of the funds are expected to go toward new voting equipment and increased cybersecurity protection, with the remainder going toward updating voter registration systems, implementing postelection audits, improving election-related communication efforts and holding the money in reserve.