federal legislation

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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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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.  Read More

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.

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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More