For much of the past year, Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) Protecting American Votes and Elections Act has taken a backseat to the Republican-led, bipartisan-crafted Secure Elections Act in the election security debate on Capitol Hill. Boosters for the bipartisan effort continue to work to get their bill passed during the upcoming lame duck session. However, its stall out amid the perceived watering down of security provisions at the request of states in August combined with increasingly sunny forecasts for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections may have provided an opening for consideration of alternative legislation. On Oct. 11, Wyden’s bill picked up four more Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate, with Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.) and Gary Peters (Mich.) all signing on.
“The longer we wait to put real measures in place to protect our election systems, the more vulnerable our democracy becomes to the threat of hackers and foreign adversaries,” said Wyden in a statement announcing the new co-sponsors. “I welcome the support of my colleagues today, which demonstrates the increasing need for Congress to take real action to confront these threats head on.”
While Democrats have been keen to work with the Republican majority in Congress to pass any legislation that would raise the security bar for voting machines and election systems, the increasing momentum within the caucus gathering behind the PAVE Act indicates it may end up being a more attractive option, particularly if Democrats end up taking both the House and the Senate in the midterms.