While most of the discussion around election security tends to focus on protecting the 2018 fall elections, much of the federal guidance and legislative proposals currently under consideration would likely have limited impact this year. Two bills in Congress – The Secure Elections Act and the PAVE Act – would implement a number of best-practice policies around cybersecurity and vote tabulation that are endorsed by most experts. Yet some of the most impactful provisions from those bills, such as grant funding to replace obsolete or out-of-support voting machines or require states to use paper ballots, would take years to implement before states realized results.
Other proposals, like the Department of Homeland Security speeding up security clearances for state and local election officials, could have had an impact had they been passed earlier, but will provide few tangible benefits less than three months out from election day.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), sponsors of the PAVE Act, warned in an Aug. 17 press conference that voting machine manufacturers and some state election officials are seeking to influence Congress to water down the Secure Elections Act as much as possible and promised to use all his power to ensure that the committee includes PAVE Act provisions on paper ballots and risk limiting audits into law this year.
“Essentially a coalition of the voting machine companies and some of the secretaries of state who insist on these inexcusable systems, they’re going to try to drag their feet in the Senate Rules Committee,” Wyden said. “There are real opportunities here to protect voters now.” Blumenauer said the goal was to get protections in place for 2020.