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National: Senators Klobuchar and Wyden introduce bill to promote mail-in voting amid coronavirus crisis | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A group of Democratic senators led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced legislation on Wednesday to promote mail-in and early voting to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) would ensure voters have 20 days of early voting in all states, require that all mail-in ballots submitted during 21 days leading to an election be counted, and ensure that all voters have the option to request absentee ballots. The legislation would also provide $3 million to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to begin implementing some of the bill’s requirements, along with reimbursing states for doing the same. Both Klobuchar and Wyden pointed to recently delayed primaries in Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, Georgia, and Maryland because of coronavirus fears in emphasizing the need to utilize mail-in ballots. In-person voting dropped in Florida, Arizona and Illinois on Tuesday, when the states held their primaries.

Full Article: Democrats introduce bill to promote mail-in voting amid coronavirus crisis | TheHill.

National: Voting by mail, already on the rise, may get a $500 million federal boost from coronavirus fears | Craig Timberg/The Washington Post

Sen. Ron Wyden (D) is proposing $500 million of federal funding to help states prepare for possible voting disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Wyden’s bill also would give Americans the option to vote by mail in case of a widespread emergency. The legislation, to be filed Wednesday, could boost a national trend toward voting by mail. In the 1990s, Wyden’s home state of Oregon became the first state to vote entirely by mail, and the practice has grown to the point that more than 31 million Americans — about one-quarter of all voters — cast ballots by mail in 2018. Election officials and experts in recent days have been considering how they would handle a major disease outbreak in which quarantines or closures of facilities would affect Americans’ ability to vote in primary elections, party caucuses and the November general election. While all states allow voting by mail in some circumstances, the availability of the option remains uneven, with some states allowing it to only seniors or those with excuses for why they can’t appear at polling places on Election Day. Five Western states conduct all of their statewide voting by mail, and a sixth, California, is gradually shifting to the practice. The wide variation in practices could make it difficult to rapidly expand voting by mail in time for this November’s election. States that handle few mail-in ballots might struggle to build the systems and acquire the machinery, such as high-speed optical scanners, needed to expand the option.

Full Article: Wyden to propose voting by mail for states facing coronavirus disruptions - The Washington Post.

National: Congress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama | Jordain Carney/The Hill

The administration is gearing up to brief lawmakers on election security as the country wades deeper into the 2020 primaries. Both the House and Senate will be briefed, separately, on March 10, according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a Senate aide. The briefings will come a week after Super Tuesday, when primary voters in more than a dozen states will head to the polls. On March 10, voters in six more states will cast ballots. The announcement of the briefings come as President Trump’s shake up of top intelligence community positions has sparked fierce criticism from Democrats and some national security professionals, and after reports that intelligence leaders have told lawmakers that Russia is again seeking to aid Trump’s campaign efforts. “American voters should decide American elections — not Vladimir Putin. All Members of Congress should condemn the President’s reported efforts to dismiss threats to the integrity of our democracy & to politicize our intel community,” Pelosi said in a tweet on Thursday.

Full Article: Congress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama | TheHill.

National: Senate GOP blocks election security bills as intel report warns of Russian meddling in 2020 | Igor Derysh/Salon

en. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., blocked Democratic efforts to unanimously pass three bills related to election security despite warnings that Russia will interfere in the 2020 election. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., tried to pass a bill that would require campaigns to report offers of foreign election assistance to the FBI, and another that would require campaigns to report such offers to the Federal Election Commission. “The appropriate response is not to say thank you, the appropriate response is to call the FBI,” Warner said, according to The Hill. “There is no doubt that [Trump] will only be emboldened in his efforts to illegally enlist foreign governments in his reelection campaign,” Blumenthal added. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also tried to pass the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act (SAFE Act), which would provide additional funding to the Election Assistance Commission and would ban voting machines from being connected to the internet as well as machines that were manufactured in foreign countries. “America is 266 days away from the 2020 election, and Majority Leader McConnell has yet to take any concrete steps to protect our foreign elections from hacking or foreign interference,” Wyden said.

Full Article: Senate GOP blocks election security bills as intel report warns of Russian meddling in 2020 | Salon.com.

National: Senate GOP blocks three election security bills | Jordan Carney/The Hill

Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to unanimously pass three election security-related bills Tuesday, marking the latest attempt to clear legislation ahead of the November elections. Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission (FEC) about foreign offers of assistance, as well as legislation to provide more election funding and ban voting machines from being connected to the internet. But Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) opposed each of the requests. Under the Senate’s rules, any one senator can ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill, but any one senator can object and block their requests. Blackburn accused Democrats of trying to move the bills knowing that GOP lawmakers would block them and giving them fodder for fundraising efforts. “They are attempting to bypass this body’s Rules Committee on behalf of various bills that will seize control over elections from the states and take it from the states and where do they want to put it? They want it to rest in the hands of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats,” she said.

Full Article: Senate GOP blocks three election security bills | TheHill.

National: Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to combat cyber attacks on state and local governments | Juliegrace Brufke/The Hill

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday introduced a bill that would establish a $400 million grant program at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to help state and local governments combat cyber threats and potential vulnerabilities. Under the legislation — led by Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Mike McCaul (R-Texas), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) — DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) would be required to develop a plan to improve localities’ cybersecurity and would create a State and Local Cybersecurity Resiliency Committee to help inform CISA on what jurisdictions need to help protect themselves from breaches. The group noted that state and local governments have become targets for hackers, having seen an uptick in attacks in recent years. “It provides more grant funding to state and locals for cybersecurity my own state of Texas impacted, particularly as tensions rise in Iran, for instance, we are seeing more cyber attacks coming out of Iran,” McCaul told The Hill. “And then of course going into the election we will make sure that our voting machines are secure.”

Full Article: Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to combat cyber attacks on state and local governments | TheHill.

National: House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Republicans on the House Administration Committee on Wednesday introduced legislation that would seek to update a long-standing federal election law and secure voter registration databases from foreign hacking attempts. The Protect American Voters Act (PAVA) would require the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to establish the Emerging Election Technology Committee (EETC), which would help create voluntary guidelines for election equipment, such as voter registration databases, not covered under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). HAVA was signed into law in 2002 following problems with voting during the 2000 presidential election. The law established the EAC and set minimum election administration standards.  The EETC would be empowered to bypass the existing Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines process, which is a voluntary set of voting requirements that voting systems can be tested against to ensure their security and accessibility. The new bill would also establish an Election Cyber Assistance Unit within the EAC, which would help connect state and local election officials across the country with cybersecurity experts who could provide technical support. 

Full Article: House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking | TheHill.

National: Election vendors executives head to the Hill | Tim Starks/Politico

he House Administration Committee will start off the new year with a bang on Thursday when it convenes a hearing with the presidents of the three largest election technology vendors. Testifying on the first panel of the hearing, the committee told MC, are Tom Burt, president and CEO of Election Systems & Software; John Poulos, president and CEO of Dominion Voting Systems; and Julie Mathis, president and CFO of Hart InterCivic. The major vendors have sent lower-level representatives to congressional hearings in the past, but this is the first time that all three top executives have testified together, a House aide told MC. The timing is auspicious: the presidential primary season, which begins in just a few weeks, represents a high-profile test of many states’ new paper-backed electronic voting machines. Vendor oversight has been a top concern of voting security experts and activists, because the three largest firms have historically shunned transparency, downplayed security concerns and threatened competitors with lawsuits. House Administration Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) first told POLITICO that she was planning this hearing in August, after a bipartisan group of activist organizations pressed her panel and its Senate counterpart to scrutinize the vendors more closely. After vendor executives testify, the Administration Committee will hear from a trio of experts, according to the witness list shared with MC. They are Liz Howard from the Brennan Center for Justice, Georgetown University professor Matt Blaze and University of Florida professor Juan Gilbert.

Full Article: Election vendors, Facebook head to the Hill - POLITICO.

National: Limited election security funds pose risk for 2020 | Kimberly Adams/Marketplace

As presidential candidates vie for voters’ attention, there’s another group getting ready for 2020: state and local election officials. Congress sent $380 million to states after attempts, some successful, to hack voter lists and election machines in the 2016 election. But elections security experts say that’s unlikely to be enough to fix the patchwork of voting machines, voter lists, and state or county computer systems that make up America’s voting infrastructure. Efforts to shore up that infrastructure happen in quiet offices like that of Chris Piper, commissioner for the Virginia Department of Elections. “The irony of being an election official is that if you’ve done your job right, nobody notices,” he said. Virginia was among the states probed by foreign hackers in 2016, and Piper said the commonwealth is working to ensure that doesn’t happen again. “Virginia was obviously one of the states that was scanned, but we were not breached,” Piper said. “We’ve taken an incredible number of steps to improve that security posture.”

Full Article: Limited election security funds pose risk for 2020 - Marketplace.

National: More election security funds headed to states as 2020 looms | Christina A. Cassidy/NPR

Congress is giving states a last-minute infusion of federal funds to help boost election security with voting in early caucus and primary states slated to begin in February. Under a huge spending bill, states would receive $425 million for upgrading voting equipment, conducting post-election audits, cybersecurity training and other steps to secure elections. To receive the funds, states must match 20% of their allocation. The Senate approved the bill Thursday, sending it to President Donald Trump for his signature. States have been scrambling to shore up their systems ahead of the 2020 election. The nation’s intelligence chiefs have warned that Russia and others remain interested in attempting to interfere in U.S. elections and undermine democracy. For many who have been advocating for more congressional action on election security, the money is welcome, but they say more must still be done to ensure elections are secure. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, has been among those pushing Congress to require states to implement rigorous post-election audits and use paper ballots in exchange for federal funds. “I’m afraid this bill will widen the gulf between states with good election security and those with perilously weak election security,” Wyden said in a statement. “I appreciate the intent behind this provision, but until Congress takes steps to secure the entire election system, our democracy will continue to be vulnerable to foreign interference.”

Full Article: More election security funds headed to states as 2020 looms - The Public's Radio : RIPR.

Editorials: Congress waited too long to start securing the 2020 elections | Justin Rohrlich/Quartz

After the US House and Senate passed a $1.4 trillion spending package this week, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle congratulated themselves, which funds the federal government through September. It adds nearly $2 billion in additional funding for fighting wildfires, sets aside $25 million for gun violence research, and apportions $7.6 billion for the 2020 Census. Under the terms of the deal, all 50 states will also receive funding to improve election security. But according to Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, securing the 2020 elections from top to bottom require more time and money than what has been allocated thus far. “Congress has been completely absent when it comes to funding for election security,” Norden told Quartz. “For the most part, Congress has said, ‘States, it’s up to you,’ and states have said, ‘Counties, it’s up to you,’ and election security has been neglected.” Congress voted to distribute $425 million among the states. A provision calls for states to match an additional 20% of the amount received within two years, bringing the eventual funding for election security to about $500 million nationwide. Last year, Congress also earmarked $380 million for states to strengthen election security. State governments have until October 2023 to spend it all.

Full Article: Congress waited too long to start securing the 2020 elections — Quartz.

National: Pressure still on McConnell after $425 million election security deal | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Democrats and activists plan to keep pressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for major election security reforms — even after he endorsed delivering an additional $425 million to state and local election officials. That money, which was part of a last-minute government funding deal, marks a major turnaround for McConnell, who for months refused to consider any new election security spending and only recently endorsed a far smaller cash infusion of $250 million. But it doesn’t include any of the election security mandates that McConnell has long resisted and that cybersecurity experts say are vital, such as paper ballots and post-election audits. Without those mandates, Democrats worry the Kremlin will still be able to upend the 2020 election by attacking the least-protected voting districts. Those concerns are also hyper-charged as intelligence and law enforcement agencies are already warning that not just Russia but also “China, Iran, and other foreign malicious actors” are all eager to compromise the election. “Mitch McConnell refused to agree to safeguards for how this funding is spent, which means state and local governments will continue buying machines with major security problems,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has called for strict security mandates on states. “Until Congress takes steps to secure the entire election system, our democracy will continue to be vulnerable to foreign interference.” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) applauded the new funding on Twitter, but warned it is “*not* a substitute for passing election security reform legislation that Senate GOP leadership has been blocking all year.”

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Pressure still on McConnell after $425 million election security deal - The Washington Post.

National: $425M allocated for election security in government funding deal | Maggie Miller and Jordain Carney/The Hill

The spending deal agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators includes $425 million for states to improve their election security, two congressional source confirmed to The Hill on Monday. According to the sources, the appropriations deal, set to be made public later Monday, will also include a requirement for states to match 20 percent of the federal funds, meaning the eventual amount given to election officials to improve election security would reach $510 million. The federal funds set to be given to states through the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) represent a compromise between the amounts separately offered by the House and Senate earlier this year for election security purposes. The House included $600 million for election security efforts in its version of the fiscal 2020 Financial Services and General Government Bill, which the chamber passed earlier this year.

Full Article: $425M allocated for election security in government funding deal | TheHill.

National: Spending Deal Allots Millions for Election Security, but Democrats Say It Isn’t Enough | Alexa Corse/Wall Street Journal

The U.S. House voted Tuesday to provide more funding to help states secure their election systems as part of a sweeping budget agreement, but Democrats argued that the compromise still doesn’t do enough to protect U.S. elections from hacking or other interference. A budget agreement would provide $425 million to help states upgrade their voting systems, lawmakers said, the largest amount for a single fiscal year in over a decade. That is part of nearly $1.4 trillion in spending which cleared the House on Tuesday and is expected to win approval from the Senate and from President Trump, preventing a possible government shutdown after Friday. The new funding represents a rare moment of agreement between top Democrats and Republicans concerning how to secure U.S. elections in the run-up to the 2020 contests, which U.S. intelligence officials repeatedly have said hostile powers remain intent on disrupting. But the issue is likely to continue to face partisan headwinds. Key Democrats continued to call for more funding and stricter standards. “This is a welcome development after months of pressure, but this money is no substitute for a permanent funding mechanism for securing and maintaining elections systems,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He also called for comprehensive election-security legislation that would mandate stronger standards, which he said top Republicans had blocked.

Full Article: Spending Deal Allots Millions for Election Security, but Democrats Say It Isn’t Enough - WSJ.

National: New federal funds for election security garner mixed reactions on Capitol Hill | Maggie Miller/The Hill

The inclusion of $425 million for election security purposes in the House and Senate-negotiated annual appropriations bill garnered mixed reactions on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, with Democrats taking issue with how states will be allowed to spend the funds. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), one of the key Senate Democrats who has advocated strongly this year for the Senate to take action on election security, told reporters on Tuesday that it was a “huge mistake” for Congress to allow the new funds to be spent on items including voting machines that experts might not deem as secure. “Under this language they can basically spend it on a whole variety of things apparently that really don’t go to the heart of modern security,” Wyden said. “As a member of the [Senate] Intelligence Committee, I won’t talk about anything classified, but I will say that the threats we face in 2020 will make what we saw in 2016 look like small potatoes.” The funds were included in the government appropriations deal following negotiations between the House and Senate, along with a requirement that states match the federal funds by 20 percent, meaning the final amount available for election security upgrades will total $510 million.

Full Article: New federal funds for election security garner mixed reactions on Capitol Hill | TheHill.

Editorials: Will your 2020 vote actually get counted? | Michael Chertoff/Los Angeles Times

On Monday, congressional leaders announced that their government-wide spending bill for fiscal year 2020 will include $425 million for states to protect U.S. elections against foreign interference and cyberattacks. This is an important, if overdue, step in the right direction. But our election systems need far more than a one-time rescue mission. To secure American elections in 2020 and beyond, Congress and the local election officials who will soon receive these funds must treat them as a starting point. When I was secretary of Homeland Security in the Bush administration, we warned of intensifying cyberthreats to critical infrastructure like power grids and transportation and communications systems. Interference with elections emerged only later, as geopolitical rivalry with Russia increased. One vulnerability that needs urgent correction is the use of paperless voting machines. These voting systems are extremely susceptible to hacking without detection because they produce only a digital record of votes. Without a paper record, officials have no way of verifying a vote count when a machine is hacked. The Department of Homeland Security, the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science, and countless other experts have said that replacing paperless machines is critical. Yet up to eight states are still expected to use paperless machines in some or all polling places next year. The Brennan Center has estimated that more than 16 million Americans could vote on insecure paperless machines in 2020 unless further action is taken. Once they receive the funds from Congress, states relying on paperless machines should take immediate steps to replace them.

Full Article: Opinion: Will your 2020 vote actually get counted? - Los Angeles Times.

National: GOP Senator Blocks Bipartisan Election Security Bill, claims protecting election security is an ‘attack’ on Trump | Emily Singer/The American Independent

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) blocked a bipartisan bill aimed at protecting elections, saying it’s ‘designed more to attack the Trump administration.’A bipartisan bill to protect American elections from foreign interference was once again blocked on Tuesday, this time by a Republican senator who claimed that the legislation was an “attack” on Donald Trump. “The mechanisms in this bill have been designed more to attack the Trump administration and Republicans than to attack the Russians and those who would attack our country and our elections,” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) said of the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act. The DETER Act — introduced by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) — directs the head of the U.S. intelligence community to expose any foreign interference in federal elections and sanction the countries that were determined to have interfered. The bill is a response to Russia’s hacking and disinformation campaign in the 2016 election.

Full Article: GOP senator claims protecting election security is an 'attack' on Trump.

National: Bipartisan bill to secure election tech advances to House floor | Maggie Miller/TheHill

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Thursday unanimously approved legislation intended to secure voting technology against cyberattacks. The Election Technology Research Act would authorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Science Foundation to conduct research on ways to secure voting technology. The legislation would also establish a Center of Excellence in Election Systems that would test the security and accessibility of voting machines and research methods to certify voting system technology. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), along with committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and ranking member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). All four sponsors enthusiastically praised the bill during the committee markup on Thursday, with Johnson saying that “transparent, fair, and secure elections are the bedrock of our democracy,” and that attacks in 2016 on online voter registration databases “have increased Americans’ concerns about the integrity of our elections.”

Full Article: Bipartisan bill to secure election tech advances to House floor | TheHill.

National: Almost 100 former officials, members of Congress urge Senate action on election security | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A group of nearly 100 former members of Congress, Cabinet officials, ambassadors and other officials is urging Congress to take action to secure U.S. elections, citing “severe threats to our national security” if certain steps are not taken. The officials, all of whom are members of nonprofit political action group Issue One’s “ReFormer’s Caucus,” sent a letter to the Senate on Thursday urging members to support various bills designed to bolster election security. “Foreign interference in American elections is a national security emergency,” the group wrote. “We are alarmed at the lack of meaningful Congressional action to secure our elections. The United States cannot afford to sit by as our adversaries exploit our vulnerabilities. Congress — especially the Senate — must enact a robust and bipartisan set of policies now.” Specifically, the officials advocated for the passage of five bipartisan bills, including the Honest Ads Act, a bill meant to increase the transparency surrounding online political ads, and the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, which would impose sanctions on countries that interfere in U.S. elections. The officials also urged the Senate to pass legislation aimed at increasing the cybersecurity of voting infrastructure and cracking down on foreign donations to U.S. elections.

Full Article: Almost 100 former officials, members of Congress urge Senate action on election security | TheHill.

National: GOP senator blocks sweeping election reform bill | Jordain Carney/The Hill

A Republican senator blocked a sweeping House-passed election and ethics reform bill on Wednesday, the latest of several failed attempts by Democrats to advance election-related legislation ahead of 2020. Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Tom Udall (N.M.) tried to pass the ethics and elections reform measure, known as H.R. 1, which they argued had been buried in the upper chamber’s “legislative graveyard.” “The For the People Act repairs our broken campaign finance system, opens up the ballot box to all Americans [and] lays waste to the corruption in Washington,” Udall said. “We must unite in defense of our electoral system and in defense of the sanctity of our democracy.” Merkley argued that the bill was crucial “because everything else we care about … is going to fail if we let this chamber be controlled by powerful special interests through this corrupted system.” But Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, objected to the bill’s passage, arguing that the legislation would “give the federal government unprecedented control over elections in this country.”

Full Article: GOP senator blocks sweeping election reform bill | TheHill.