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National: Divided Congress can’t agree on fix for ‘dangerous’ Russian election meddling | McClatchy

Despite clear and compelling evidence of a Russian plot to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, partisanship has all but killed any chance that Congress will pass legislation to shore up election security before voters cast their ballots next year. Republicans and Democrats in Congress largely agree with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s finding that Russia tried to meddle in U.S. democracy — and that foreign interference remains a serious threat. “Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere with our democracy are dangerous and disturbing,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, after Mueller finalized his investigation last month. But McConnell has made it clear that he’s unlikely to allow the Senate to vote on any election-related legislation for the foreseeable future. Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee that has jurisdiction over election security legislation, blames House Democrats for McConnell’s hardline stance. Blunt said Democrats overreached in January when they passed H.R. 1, a sweeping measure focused on voting rights, campaign finance, and government ethics.

Full Article: Partisan Congress resists election security upgrades for 2020 | McClatchy Washington Bureau.

National: Senate Democrats push to match House’s ethics and election reforms | The Washington Post

Responding to action in the House, Senate Democrats unveiled their own version of a sweeping election and ethics reform bill Wednesday — one that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed never to bring to a vote. Dubbed, like the House bill, the For the People Act, the Senate legislation includes a vast suite of proposals — including measures meant to expand voting, provisions aimed at unmasking and diluting the power of moneyed interests, new ethical strictures for federal officials and a new public financing system for congressional campaigns. The bill, according to its lead author, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), has the support of all 47 senators in the Democratic caucus. The House bill passed 234 to 193 this month with unanimous Democratic support, meaning every congressional Democrat is on record in support of the bill. “Today we are seizing their momentum and the momentum of the American people,” Udall said at a news conference Wednesday. “Now the ball is in Senator McConnell’s court. . . . This should not be about Democrats versus Republicans, this is about people versus special interests.”

Full Article: Senate Democrats push to match House’s ethics and election reforms - The Washington Post.

National: This key House Republican is open to mandates on states for election security | The Washington Post

As the House Homeland Security Committee meets for the first election security hearing of 2019 today, Congress is still far away from a grand bargain to help protect state election systems from foreign hackers. But the goalposts may be changing with Democrats in charge of the House. The new top Republican on the committee, Rep. Mike Rogers (Ala.), tells me he’s ready to impose requirements on states to secure their election systems against hackers. He called for a baseline of security states must meet before receiving money from the government to upgrade outdated and vulnerable voting machines and secure other election infrastructure. “We want to get some minimum standards that have to be adhered to,” Rogers tells me. And he says he’s willing to work with Democrats to get it done.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: This key House Republican is open to mandates on states for election security - The Washington Post.

National: House Democrats, Republicans cross swords over election security bill | Politico

Democrats and Republicans have clashed before over H.R. 1, the House Dems’ sweeping package of democracy and governance proposals, but today the fight goes directly to the election security provisions of the bill. The House Homeland Security panel holds a hearing today on the measure with testimony from DHS’s top cyber official, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs, Election Assistance Commission Chairman Thomas Hicks and others. A CISA official told MC: “Director Krebs will confirm election security remains a priority for CISA in the run up to 2020, laying out the Agency’s plan to work with State and local election officials on broader engagement, better defining risk to election systems, and understanding the resources to manage that risk.” At least one witness — Jake Braun, a former Obama administration official who now works as executive director of the University of Chicago’s Cyber Policy Initiative and an organizer of DEF CON’s Voting Village — endorses the bill’s election security ideas in his prepared testimony. He praises the provisions mandating auditable paper trails and authorizing voting infrastructure research and development funds.

Full Article: House Democrats, Republicans cross swords over election security bill today - POLITICO.

Editorials: The House Takes on America’s Voting-Rights Problem | Jelani Cobb/The New Yorker

The crisis of democracy that has attended Donald Trump’s Presidency has visibly manifested itself in challenges to the free press, the judiciary, and the intelligence agencies, but among its more corrosive effects has been the corruption of basic mathematics. Since the 2016 election, Trump has periodically rage-tweeted about an alleged three million non-citizens whose ballots delivered the popular-vote majority to Hillary Clinton. His fulminations were a fanciful extension of the Republican Party’s concern, despite all evidence to the contrary, that American elections are riddled with voter fraud. The math does, however, support a different number—one that truthfully points to how American democracy is being undermined. Nearly two million fewer African-Americans voted in the 2016 election than did in 2012. That decline can be attributed, in part, to the fact that it was the first election since 2008 in which Barack Obama was not on the ballot and, in part, to an ambivalence toward Clinton among certain black communities. Civil-rights groups and members of the Congressional Black Caucus point to another factor as well: 2016 was the first Presidential election since the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision, which eviscerated sections of the Voting Rights Act. Suppressive tactics, some old, some new, ensued—among them, voter-roll purges; discriminatory voter-I.D. rules; fewer polling places and voting machines; and reductions in early-voting periods. After an election in which some two million Americans went missing, the Administration concluded that three million too many had shown up at the polls. (The equation here is: reality minus delusion equals three million.)

Full Article: The House Takes on America’s Voting-Rights Problem | The New Yorker.

National: Debate Over Election Reform Bill Gets Heated in House | Courthouse News

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle raised their voices Wednesday over whether a sweeping election reform bill proposed by Democrats would drain or fill the Washington swamp. The wide-ranging anti-corruption bill, House Resolution 1, includes a provision that would increase transparency in campaign finance by requiring candidates to report where their campaign money comes from. That measure was the focus of committee members from both parties during the nearly four-hour hearing in the House Oversight Committee. Bradley Smith, an expert witness and chairman of the Institute for Free Speech, repeatedly told committee members that the bill would have a “chilling effect” on citizens’ desire to engage in elections through avenues like campaign donations. “You run the risk of regulations swallowing up the entire discourse in which the public engages,” Smith said.

Full Article: Debate Over Election Reform Bill Gets Heated in House.

National: House will advance HR 1 government overhaul package this month, Pelosi says | Roll Call

The House will advance a package of voting rights, campaign finance and ethics overhauls this month, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a “Dear Colleague” letter Monday night. House Democrats have introduced the government overhaul package as HR 1 to reflect its priority status. They believe fundamentally changing the way government operates will increase public buy-in as Democrats pursue an economic policy agenda focused on issues such as heath care, infrastructure and climate change. “During this Black History Month, I am pleased we will be advancing H.R. 1, which contains Congressman John Lewis’s Voter Empowerment Act ensuring equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, and lays the groundwork of the subsequent passage of Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s Voting Rights Advancement Act,” Pelosi wrote, citing two black lawmakers who have sponsored legislation that is part of the Democrats’ effort to overhaul voting rights laws.

Full Article: House will advance HR 1 government overhaul package this month, Pelosi says.

National: Judiciary Hearing on Democrats’ Election Bill Turns Into Partisan Brawl | The New York Times

House Democrats faced sustained partisan fire on Tuesday over their ambitious elections overhaul bill, a top priority for the new Democratic leaders who must answer charges that their efforts to counter partisan gerrymandering and ease access to the polls strain the constitutional reach of Congress. The House Judiciary Committee’s inaugural hearing of the 116th Congress was dedicated to the voting and ethics rules overhaul, known as the For the People Act, which Democratic representatives have trumpeted as their signature legislative priority. But its reception underscored the challenges the bill will face in a divided Capitol. The bill would turn the drawing of congressional boundaries over to nonpartisan commissions, promote more transparency in campaign contributions and expand the public financing system for House and presidential candidates. “The broader issue is what kind of country America is and should be,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the committee.

Full Article: Judiciary Hearing on Democrats’ Election Bill Turns Into Partisan Brawl - The New York Times.

Editorials: Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 1 election reform bill could save American democracy. | Richard Hasen/Slate

The Democrats’ first order of business as they took control of the 116th Congress was introducing H.R. 1, the colossal “For the People Act.” This 571-page behemoth of a bill covering voting rights, campaign finance reform, ethics improvements, and more was a perfect reminder of just how much power the Constitution gives Congress to make elections better in this country and, sadly, of how partisan the question of election reform has become. By beginning with election reform as “H.R. 1,” Democrats signaled their priorities as they took over control of the House of Representatives. The bill now has 221 co-sponsors, all Democrats, including almost every Democrat in the House. It’s disheartening that bipartisan movement on election reform is no longer possible and that few of the significant improvements in the bill stand a chance of becoming law until Democrats have control of the Senate and the presidency. Even then some of its provisions could be blocked by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court. But if and when Democrats ever do return to full power in Washington, H.R. 1 should remain the top priority. Though there is room for some improvements, the “For the People Act” would go an enormous way toward repairing our badly broken democracy.

Full Article: Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 1 election reform bill could save American democracy..

National: Incoming NASS leader rejects Democrats’ election security bill | Politico

The next president of the NASS has strong words for House Democrats considering a range of election security measures: Butt out. H.R. 1, a Democratic grab-bag bill with election security provisions, “seems to be a huge federal overreach,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate told POLITICO. “No matter how well-intentioned, the provisions of the bill give the authority of overseeing and conducting elections and voter registration to the federal government.” (In fact, the bill would not do this.) Pate’s remarks, first reported by National Journal, mirror comments by former Georgia Secretary of State Paul Kemp in August 2016. Pate cited NASS’s long-standing opposition to federal mandates for election procedures — in October, the group warned against tying federal funds to regulations — and said state election offices like his are “better prepared than the federal government to determine what is right for their residents.” Despite Pate’s suggestion that “our country’s legal and historical distinctions in federal and state sovereignty” invest states with the exclusive authority to regulate elections, Article I Section 4 of the Constitution empowers Congress to “at any time by Law make or alter” election processes.

Full Article: Incoming NASS leader rejects Democrats’ election security bill - POLITICO.

Editorials: Congress ignored its election duties for years. That ends now. | Matthew Weil/Roll Call

House Democrats have waited eight years to regain the speakership, and now that they hold the gavel, they will clearly seek to move on pent-up priorities. For their first act out of the gate, they rolled several into one. The “For the People Act” — or H.R. 1 — runs just over 500 pages and includes proposals the Democrats have pursued during their time in the minority, such as ethics reforms, campaign finance changes, and a well-publicized section requiring presidential candidates to hand over their tax returns. But the bill also lays out a vision for election administration in 2020 and beyond, putting the voter at the center of the process instead of focusing on what is easier for government. Congress taking the lead could cause some heartburn at the state level.

Full Article: Congress ignored its election duties for years. That ends now.

National: Here are the big election security measures in the House Democrats’ massive new bill | CyberScoop

A giant bill House Democrats proposed on Friday includes a number of measures aimed at improving election security and voter confidence. The measures in H.R. 1 draw on provisions from several bills that were proposed but failed since the 2016 election, which experts and officials concluded was targeted by a Russian-led influence operation. Key features include a requirement that federal elections be conducted with paper ballots that can be counted by hand or optical scanners, new grants that states and municipalities can use to improve and upgrade equipment, an incident reporting requirement for election system vendors and a number of other measures meant to keep election systems’ security up-to-date. Election security experts have criticized paperless voting machines because of their vulnerability to tampering with little recourse, since they produce no auditable paper trail of each vote. Such machines were used to some extent in more than a dozen states in the recent midterm elections, according to Verified Voting. In South Carolina and Georgia, voters sued the government under the premise that their votes aren’t being properly counted with paperless machines. The bill, also called the “For the People Act,” would statutorily do away with these machines for federal elections by 2022.

Full Article: Here are the big election security measures in the House Democrats' massive new bill.

National: House Democrats unveil first major legislative package of voting, campaign finance and ethics overhauls | Roll Call

Automatic voter registration, independent redistricting commissions, super PAC restrictions, forced release of presidential tax returns — these are just a handful of the provisions in a massive government overhaul package House Democrats will formally unveil Friday, according to a summary of the legislation obtained by Roll Call.  The package is being introduced as H.R. 1 to show that it’s the top priority of the new Democratic majority. Committees with jurisdiction over the measures will hold markups on the legislation before the package is brought to the floor sometime later this month or early in February.  H.R. 1 features a hodgepodge of policies Democrats have long promoted as solutions for protecting voters’ rights and expanding access to the polls, reducing the role of so-called dark money in politics, and strengthening federal ethics laws. 

Full Article: House Democrats unveil first major legislative package of voting, campaign finance and ethics overhauls.

National: House Democrats’ first bill has an eye on election security | Axios

H.R. 1, the gargantuan first bill the new House Democratic majority will unveil Friday, is an anti-corruption grab bag that most prominently tackles campaign finance, sexual harassment and voting rights. But election cybersecurity will quietly play a major role in the bill, too. The big picture: This bill will likely clear the House and then die in the Senate. “These are things [Senate] Majority Leader McConnell has spent his entire career fighting,” noted a source familiar with the final content of the bill. Beyond the Senate, President Trump is unlikely to welcome a provision requiring presidential candidates to release tax returns. But H.R. 1 is more than just a flag in the sand.

Everyone who blocks the Democrats’ crackdowns on government misconduct will have to explain why they are opposed to:

Forcing super PACs to report donors.
Barring Congress from using taxpayer funds to pay sexual harassment settlements.
Reinstating the Voting Rights Act.
Other largely bipartisan-supported provisions many voters see as good government.

Enter cybersecurity. Details aren’t final, but those who have worked on the bill say its election cybersecurity efforts will borrow heavily from the 2018 Election Security Act proposed by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). That bill:

Authorized $1.7 billion in grants for states to purchase more secure election equipment. Those numbers could easily change: H.R. 1 is described as matching the goals but not the specifics of the earlier legislation.
Would dole out those funds for training, security testing, maintenance and shoring up the security of all aspects of election infrastructure, from voting machines to IT systems.
Requires the White House to create and formalize an election cybersecurity strategy.
Requires that vendors be owned by U.S. citizens or residents and that they disclose where components of their systems are manufactured.

The new funding would augment $380 million allocated last year for election cybersecurity.

A report by Verified Voting and the Brennan Center noted that $380 million would have been barely enough to pay for more secure upgrades in the handful of states where voting machines didn’t provide paper receipts, had the money all been spent on that need — which it wasn’t. In practice, state election officials by and large agree with that sentiment.

Full Article: House Democrats’ first bill has an eye on election security – Axios.

Full Article: House Democrats' first bill has an eye on election security - Axios.

National: Pressure mounts on election security as 2020 approaches | The Hill

Pressure is already mounting on Congress to secure the 2020 presidential race from foreign cyberattacks or interference just weeks after the midterm elections. Lawmakers expressed frustration at failing to pass a bill during the current session, but are vowing to resume their work in January. “Yeah, it’s next Congress,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told The Hill last week. Lankford and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in 2017 introduced the bipartisan Secure Elections Act, seen as the best shot of passing legislation before the midterms. “[Klobuchar] and I are not going to drop it, we’re going to keep working it through, but it’s not going to be the next two weeks,” Lankford vowed. Lawmakers, though, will take up their work with less time to bridge differences and before the 2020 cycle moves to full swing. And there may be new questions for lawmakers to address.

Full Article: The Year Ahead: Pressure mounts on election security as 2020 approaches | TheHill.

National: Senator Warner blames White House for election security bill not passing Congress | The Hill

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) on Friday said the White House prevented a bipartisan election security bill from passing Congress this year. Warner, who is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that if the bill known as the Secure Elections Act made it to the Senate floor, it would receive at least 80 votes in favor of passage. “The objection has come from the White House,” he said at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The bipartisan legislation, introduced by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), is aimed at protecting election systems from cyberattacks. The measure was held up in committee this year because of a lack of GOP support, a Republican aide told The Hill at the time.

Full Article: Warner blames White House for election security bill not passing Congress | TheHill.

National: House Democrats to unveil political reform legislation as ‘H.R. 1’ | The Washington Post

House Democratic leaders on Friday unveiled the outline of a broad political overhaul bill that will include provisions for public financing of elections, voting rights reforms and new ethics strictures for federal officials. The bill has been in the works for months as part of Democrats’ “For the People” campaign platform, a framework that helped them win the House majority in this month’s midterm elections. Numerous outside groups aligned with Democrats have pushed the party’s House leaders to schedule a reform bill as their first order of business, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced before the election that the bill would be designated “H.R. 1” — a symbolic title meant to emphasize its importance, even if it is unlikely to be the first piece of legislation to get a House vote in the new Congress.

Full Article: House Democrats to unveil political reform legislation as ‘H.R. 1’ - The Washington Post.

National: Democrats vow quick action to bolster voting rights upon taking power | The Hill

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday outlined an ambitious overhaul to the way government operates — including legislation to strengthen voting rights protections. Pelosi, widely expected to be elected the next House Speaker, vowed to make it the first order of business when Democrats realize their newly won majority next year. The goal, Pelosi said, is “to reduce the role of money [and] advance fair elections, and one part of that is having the Voting Rights Act early on the agenda.” The effort would come following a midterm election that included a number of closely fought elections, including a tight race for governor in Georgia that was shadowed by accusations that black voters were being disenfranchised.

Full Article: Dems vow quick action to bolster voting rights upon taking power | TheHill.

National: Bipartisan pair of senators introduces bill to create global election security information sharing program | The Hill

pair of senators on Friday introduced a bipartisan bill to create a program within the State Department to share information with U.S. global allies about election security. The measure would establish a way for the United States and other countries to share information on the best practices for administering elections, such as combating disinformation campaigns and conducting post-election audits. The bill is a companion to similar bipartisan legislation passed by the House earlier this year. Under the legislation, the new State Department program would offer grants to American nonprofit groups that work on election security to share information with similar groups in other countries. Foreign election officials would also be brought to the U.S. to study the election process and the program would offer U.S. election officials the chance to examine other nations’ election security measures.

Full Article: Bipartisan pair of senators introduces bill to create global election security information sharing program | TheHill.

National: Democrats call for states to get $400M election security upgrades | The Hill

Two House Democrats are pressing their colleagues to allot $400 million for states to upgrade outdated voting equipment and secure their election systems. Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and Robert Brady (Pa.) made the appeal in a letter to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee released on Monday. “We know that Russia launched an unprecedented assault on our elections in 2016, targeting 21 states’ voting systems, and we believe this money is necessary to protect our elections from future attack,” wrote the lawmakers.  “When a sovereign nation attempts to meddle in our elections, it is an attack on our country,” they wrote. “We cannot leave states to defend against the sophisticated cyber tactics of state actors like Russia on their own.”

Full Article: Dems call for states to get $400M election security upgrades | TheHill.