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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.

National: Senate GOP blocks three election security bills for second day | Jordain Carney/The Hill

Senate Republicans blocked three election security bills on Wednesday, marking the second time in as many days they’ve stymied legislation. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked for unanimous consent to pass three election-related bills. But they were blocked by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who noted that the unsuccessful attempt was the latest by Democrats to pass election security bills in the Senate ahead of 2020. “You know, it’s not a good sign if you’re doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” Blackburn said. Under Senate rules, any one senator can ask to vote on or pass a bill. But because it requires unanimous support, any one senator can also block their requests. Election security has become a point of contention during the Trump era. House Democrats have passed several election-related bills, including a sweeping ethics and election reform measure, but they’ve hit a wall in the GOP-controlled Senate.

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

National: Senate Intelligence report triggers new calls for action on election security | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Democrats are renewing their calls for Senate action on election security measures following the release of a Senate Intelligence Committee report that found the Kremlin directed Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The party has repeatedly gone after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for imposing obstacles to action on election security, a point underscored once again in the wake of the bipartisan Intelligence report. McConnell was “blocking a full-throated U.S. response” by stopping various election security bills from being brought up in the Senate and burying them “in his legislative graveyard,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) charged in a statement. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a 2020 presidential candidate, called on McConnell to allow votes on election security legislation.

Full Article: Senate Intelligence report triggers new calls for action on election security | TheHill.

National: House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A group of House Democrats led by Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) on Tuesday introduced new legislation aimed at combating foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections. The SHIELD Act would require campaigns to report “illicit offers” of election assistance from foreign governments or individuals to both the FBI and the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and also take steps to ensure that political advertisements on social media are subject to the same stricter rules as ads on television or radio. The bill classifies the “offering of non-public campaign material to foreign governments and those linked with foreign governments and their agents as an illegal solicitation of support,” while also closing gaps that allow foreign investment in aspects of U.S. elections. The bill is also sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), along with Reps. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) and Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.). Lofgren in a statement heavily criticized President Trump and his administration for “welcoming” foreign interference in U.S. elections.

Full Article: House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference | TheHill.

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Urges Congress to Pass Comprehensive, Bipartisan Election Security Funding

With the 2020 election rapidly approaching, Verified Voting continues to urge Congress to pass comprehensive election security legislation and allocate adequate funding for state and local officials to make critical improvements to our country’s election infrastructure.

Congress is negotiating a spending package for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to allocate funding for states to make much-needed election security upgrades. The House approved a $600 million package in June, while late last week the Senate offered a $250 million amendment. The House and Senate will work to reconcile the final funding amount and spending parameters in a conference committee, and Verified Voting urges Congress to act quickly while crucial election security funding remains on the line. 

In a statement on the Senate’s version last week, Verified Voting President Marian K. Schneider said:

“The additional $250 million in election security funding today is promising, but more is needed to help states upgrade their systems and validate the 2020 election. This amount falls short of the $600 million that passed in the House, which is much closer to meeting the need for proper investment in election security. Congress has the obligation to protect the country from threats to national security and has the opportunity to act on this nonpartisan issue – after all, everyone votes on the same equipment.

National: Democrats seize on whistleblower report to push for election security | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Democrats renewed their push for election security legislation after a stark warning from acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and the release of a whistleblower complaint about President Trump’s call with Ukraine’s leader. Maguire on Thursday warned that the “greatest challenge” the U.S. is facing is “maintaining the integrity of our election system” and said “there are foreign powers that are trying to get us to question the validity of whether or not our elections are valid. “The intelligence official made the comment during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday about a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump tried to persuade Ukraine to mount a corruption investigation against former Vice President Joe Biden, the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Democrats also highlighted a section in the whistleblower complaint that Trump’s actions could pose “risks to U.S. national security and undermine the U.S. Government’s efforts to deter and counter foreign interference in U.S. elections.” The two events have bolstered the need for election security legislation, these Democrats argued, not long after former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report highlighted Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections. “The President again, just [as] he did in 2016, sought out assistance from a foreign power to help in his reelection,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement on Thursday. “This is election interference, plain and simple. The President has continually and persistently undermined the integrity of our elections and our democracy.”

Full Article: Democrats seize on whistleblower report to push for election security | TheHill.

National: After Resisting, McConnell and Senate G.O.P. Back Election Security Funding | Carl Hulse/The New York Times

Facing mounting criticism for blocking proposals to bolster election security, Senator Mitch McConnell on Thursday threw his weight behind a new infusion of $250 million to help states guard against outside interference in the 2020 voting. Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has been under regular attack from both Democrats and a conservative group for refusing to allow the Senate to vote on various election security proposals, some of them bipartisan, despite dire warnings from the intelligence community that Russia is already trying to replicate the elaborate meddling campaign it carried out during the 2016 presidential contest. The additional funding, Mr. McConnell said in announcing his support, “will bring our total allocation for election security — listen to this — to more than $600 million since fiscal 2018.” The money was quickly approved by the Appropriations Committee later Thursday. Though Mr. McConnell has embraced other seemingly derogatory nicknames over the years, he was incensed at being called “Moscow Mitch” by those who claimed his opposition showed he was willing to accept foreign election interference because it had benefited his own party by helping to elect President Trump, despite the senator’s long record of taking a hard line against Russia.

Full Article: After Resisting, McConnell and Senate G.O.P. Back Election Security Funding - The New York Times.

National: For latest election security moves, the devil is in the details | Derek B. Johnson/FCW

Last week it looked like a logjam was cleared on election security. The Senate approved $250 million in funding to states to secure election infrastructure ahead of 2020. Microsoft announced it would continue supporting Windows 7, the soon-to-be-obsolete operating system used on voting machines in thousands of jurisdictions, throughout the 2020 election cycle. Additionally, the Election Assistance Commission met to discuss its latest security standards for voting machines. While new federal dollars for election security are welcome, experts caution that more money might be required and more direction is needed on how to spend the money in the form of new legislation to put smart policy behind congressional outlays. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates the cost of replacing all paperless voting machines in the country at $734 million over five years. When added to the costs estimated to tackle other problems like protecting voter registration data, implementing post-election audits and extending cybersecurity assistance to state and local governments, the total price comes out to more than $2.1 billion. According to research from the OSET Institute, software licenses, maintenance fees and other costs to support voting machines past their first year are hard to quantify and can end up costing more than the initial equipment purchase. Contract language tends to leave the timing, nature and additional costs of such updates at the discretion of voting machine manufacturers.

Full Article: For latest election security moves, the devil is in the details -- FCW.

National: McConnell’s support for election security funding is just the start of a big fight | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially relented yesterday in the fight over election security by throwing his support behind a $250 million infusion of cash for state election officials. But that concession is likely just the start of what could be a battle royal in Congress. Democrats, who have derided McConnell as “Moscow Mitch” for blocking progress on election security after the Russian interference in the 2016 election, were already arguing the majority leader had only embraced a half measure. McConnell signed on to a measure, which is expected to be approved as part of a must-pass spending bill, to provide cash to states to upgrade their election systems, but it doesn’t mandate how it should be spent. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) took to the Senate floor to bemoan the language supported by McConnell for not requiring changes such as paper ballots and post-election security audits experts say are vital to thwart hackers from Russia and elsewhere. “It doesn’t include a single solitary reform that virtually everyone knows we need, but it’s a start,” Schumer said. A bill that delivers money for election security but doesn’t mandate any particular fixes is a good bargain for McConnell and many Republicans who are wary of expanding federal authority over state and local-run elections — and who fear blowback from President Trump if they talk too much about Russia’s 2016 hacking and influence operation aimed at helping Trump’s election.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: McConnell's support for election security funding is just the start of a big fight - The Washington Post.

National: Senate’s Election Security Funding Bill Leaves Election Assistance Commission Strapped for Cash | Courtney Buble/Government Executive

he cash-strapped, understaffed federal agency responsible for promoting voting machine security standards and best practices for election administration will receive very little new funding under a Senate appropriations bill aimed at bolstering election security. Bowing to pressure from Democrats and some Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week reversed course and said he would support legislation aimed at preventing foreign interference in U.S. elections. On Sept. 19, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported out the “Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2020” (S.2524), which includes funding for $250 million in election security grants for state and local election administrators. But the bill includes almost no new funds for the Election Assistance Commission, the severely understaffed and underfunded agency that serves as a clearinghouse for information about voting machine security standards and administrative best practices. Under the Senate legislation, EAC would receive $11,995,000 in 2020, about $2 million more than it received in 2019, however $1.5 million of that would be transferred to the National Institute for Standards and Technology to develop voluntary state voting system guidelines, and another  $2.4 million is designated for the EAC’s relocation to new offices.

Full Article: Senate’s Election Security Funding Bill Leaves a Key Agency Strapped for Cash - Government Executive.

National: Democrats launch ‘full court press’ on election security | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Democrats are pressing hard this week in what could be their final chance to pass legislation aimed at protecting the 2020 contest against Russian hackers. Senate Democrats have failed for months to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow a vote on bills committing an additional $600 million to election security and also mandating security reforms such as paper ballots and post-election cybersecurity audits. Now they’re shifting tactics and trying to force some of that funding into a must-pass spending bill. Round one of the fight starts Thursday at a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting where the top-ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), and the top Democrat on the committee’s general government panel, Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), will try to force the money into the Republican draft of a spending bill. If that doesn’t work, Democrats can keep trying to push Republicans to add the measure through the lengthy give-and-take of the appropriations process that’s likely to drag on for several months. Aides for Leahy and Coons declined to tell me precisely what was in the amendment they’ll be introducing Thursday, but Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and other senators are pushing for at least the $600 million that’s included in legislation already passed by the House. If the last-ditch effort fails, many Americans are likely to cast votes in 2020 in a process still governed by the same lax rules as in 2016 – when a Russian hacking and disinformation operation upended the election and severely damaged voters’ confidence in the democratic process. The federal government has surged its cybersecurity help to state election officials since then and several states and localities have voluntarily improved protections, but the improvements are far from universal.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Democrats launch ‘full court press’ on election security - The Washington Post.

National: Election security funds caught in crosshairs of spending debate | Maggies Miller-The Hill

Funding to bolster election security efforts at the state level could become a sticking point during the ongoing government spending talks, with the House approving the funds while Republicans in the Senate remain staunchly opposed. The spotlight will be on the Senate on Tuesday, as the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government marks up its portion of the annual spending bill, with the full committee due to vote on the bill Thursday. While the subcommittee will wait until after the markup to release its version of the annual financial services and general government funding bill, which includes appropriations for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), it’s unlikely to include election security funds due to Republican opposition. This could become a factor in negotiations between the House and Senate over government funding bills and make it even more difficult for Congress to approve funding legislation prior to the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, which is needed to avert a shutdown.

Full Article: Election security funds caught in crosshairs of spending debate | TheHill.

New Jersey: Activists press for federal support to upgrade New Jersey’s vulnerable voting machines | Briana Vannozzi/NJTV News

Progressive activists on Tuesday called for an overhaul of New Jersey’s voting system, saying that the lack of a paper backup to the electronic machines at the polls in many counties could undermine the faith of voters that their ballots will be counted. “This is our most important fundamental right, the right to vote,” said Marcia Marley, president of BlueWave NJ. “And if it doesn’t count, why vote?” The activists are also looking to put pressure on federal lawmakers to approve $600 million for election security funding at the state level. The allocation has already been approved by the Democratic-majority House of Representatives but has failed to get any traction in the upper house, which is controlled by the GOP and led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican. Carrying signs that read “Moscow Mitch” and “Protect Our Elections,” the activists gathered outside the offices of the state’s two Democratic senators, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez. “Robert Mueller explained that the threat of foreign intervention in our elections is very much still alive and probably escalating for the 2020 elections,” said BlueWave NJ member Mark Lurinsky, referencing testimony before Congress by the former Special Counsel to the Justice Department who investigated Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Full Article: Activists press for federal support to upgrade NJ’s vulnerable voting machines | Video | NJTV News.

National: Here’s why Mitch McConnell is blocking election security bills | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

As Congress returns this week, Mitch McConnell remains the one-man roadblock for Democrats’ election security bills. He’s still refusing to allow a vote, even as Democrats deride him as “Moscow Mitch” and accuse him of inviting Russia to interfere on Republicans’ behalf in the 2020 election. But why is McConnell so staunchly opposed? Republicans and Democrats offer a fairly straightforward theory: McConnell is wary of drawing the ire of President Trump, who has repeatedly wavered on whether Russia interfered in the presidential contest — and seems to view traditionally bipartisan discussions about election security as delegitimizing his unexpected 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton. “This is a narrative that the White House doesn’t want to approach,” David Jolly, a former Republican House member from Florida and an outspoken Trump critic, told me. “The president’s not comfortable talking about it. He’s someone with a fragile ego. And McConnell is happy to coordinate with this White House. That’s the only thing that explains it.” McConnell is likely also concerned about the political fallout for Republican senators, several of whom have supported and even co-sponsored election security bills in the past, says a former Democratic Senate staffer who worked extensively on cybersecurity issues during the Obama administration.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Here’s why Mitch McConnell is blocking election security bills - The Washington Post.

National: Expanding the Definition of “Election Systems” also Expands Cyber Security Funding Options | Steve Smith/Governing

In our previous article, the concept of elections systems as an integrated ecosystem of both specific (voter registration, vote collection, results reporting) and general (citizen data from multiple agencies) applications was presented. The point was that elections systems exist in perpetuity and not just in and around an election cycle and that data associated with elections are submitted and in process all year every year. The perpetual nature of the elections systems ecosystem has not traditionally been addressed with matching funding streams. The federal government has been reactive, appropriating funds via the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) on as as-needed basis, as in the aftermath of situations like the 2016 federal election, in which alleged vote tampering was reported. HAVA funding reaches state and local governments too late to take action in the current election cycle and results in the creation of reserve funds that remain until they can be effectively be utilized for future election cycles. State and local governments rely heavily on federal funding like HAVA funding to make large-scale investments in elections systems, which often further delays the impact these investments can have due to long and time-consuming procurement processes.

Full Article: Expanding the Definition of “Election Systems” also Expands Cyber Security Funding Options.

National: Democrats make renewed push for election security | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Congressional Democrats are shining the spotlight back on election security as they struggle to push various bills across the finish line in the face of Republican opposition. Democrats in both the House and Senate are renewing efforts to force the GOP-controlled Senate to allow votes on election security measures that have been stalled due to Republican concerns about federalizing elections and re-litigating the 2016 election interference by Russia. Both House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday sent letters to colleagues detailing their goals around election security for the fall. “We must continue our push to protect our elections at the federal, state, and local levels, especially in the upcoming Senate appropriations process,” Schumer wrote, while criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for not allowing any votes on the topic. Hoyer wrote that “the House may take up additional legislation to strengthen election security.” A spokesperson for Hoyer did not respond to a request for details about which legislation Hoyer was referring to.

Full Article: Democrats make renewed push for election security | TheHill.

National: Blue Dog Democrats urge action on election security | Maggie Miller/The Hill

The leaders of the House Blue Dog Coalition and the House Blue Dog Task Force on National Security on Thursday sent a letter to House and Senate leaders calling for action to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections and to secure election systems. The House Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 26 moderate Democrats, urged congressional leaders to “put politics aside and pursue bipartisan solutions” to bolster election security ahead of 2020. “We are calling on Congress to take further action to secure our elections, punish Russia for its attempts to meddle in the 2016 and 2018 elections, and deter our adversaries from meddling in future U.S. elections,” the leaders of the Blue Dog Coalition and the Task Force wrote. “The threat to our national security could not be more clear.” The letter was sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).  The House has passed two major election security bills earlier this year, both along party lines. The SAFE Act, passed in June, would provide states with $600 million for election security efforts, and would also ban voting machines from being connected to the internet and from being manufactured outside the U.S. The House also approved the For the People Act, which includes sweeping language on election security and voting reform. Both bills have been blocked from a vote in the Senate by Republicans, who cite concerns around federalizing elections.

Full Article: Blue Dog Democrats urge action on election security | TheHill.

National: Republicans and Democrats agree that the U.S. should strengthen election security. So why doesn’t Mitch McConnell? | Evan Crawford/The Washington Post

The Senate Intelligence Committee recently released the first volume in what will be a series of reports on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Here’s the most startling thing we learned: Russian hackers targeted election infrastructure not just in 21 or 39 states, as previously reported — but in 50 states. These efforts ranged from scanning state election websites to test for vulnerability to gaining access to the Illinois voter database and being “in a position to delete or change voter data,” according to the Senate report, though no evidence has emerged that any data was actually changed. In response, the committee made recommendations to ensure a more secure 2020 election. Election experts have long been calling for many of these actions, including increased communication between federal, state and local election officials; post-election audits; and updated voting equipment. Many of these measures were part of a bill that the House passed, the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has effectively blocked this legislation from being considered in the Senate. So where does the public stand on these issues? There’s a bipartisan consensus about election security.

Full Article: Republicans and Democrats agree that the U.S. should strengthen election security - The Washington Post.