The legislation, which passed mostly along party lines, would require paper backup ballots and other improvements in federal races. Republicans have criticized the bill as an overreach into state and local affairs.
(TNS) — The U.S. House passed an election security measure Thursday that would require voting systems to use backup paper ballots in federal contests, while also mandating improvements to the higher-tech side of the polls.
The full chamber voted 225-184, mostly along party lines, to send the bill to the Senate where it faces stiff opposition among Republicans. House Democrats fast-tracked the bill to the floor after it cleared the House Administration Committee by party-line vote.
With just over 200 days until the New Hampshire primary for the 2020 presidential election, Democrats and Republicans, who agree that enhanced elections security is necessary, are still far apart on how to legislate and implement changes to current systems.
The measure would authorize $600 million for states to bolster election security. It also would give states $175 million biannually to help sustain election infrastructure.
“This bill closes dangerous gaps in our election systems and brings our security into the 21st century,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a floor speech supporting the bill.
It would require implementation of cybersecurity safeguards for hardware and software used in elections, bar the use of wireless communication devices in election systems and require electronic voting machines be manufactured in the United States.
Republicans acknowledged the urgent need for progress in securing the nation’s election systems. But they spoke out against the bill, calling it federal overreach into elections, which are managed by states and localities.
“Democrats’ bill focuses on forcing states to restructure their election systems through federal mandates and ignores states’ rights to choose the election system that best fits their unique needs,” said Illinois Republican Rodney Davis.
Davis has proposed his own election security legislation, which he says focuses on empowering states and local election officials to update voting infrastructure.
“There is a reason why the Russians are interfering in our elections, and other countries may be too, but we can document with full confidence from the intelligence community that the Russians are,” said Pelosi. “It is because they want to affect the outcome of the elections so they can affect the policy.”
The California Democrat announced Wednesday that Congress will receive an election security briefing from administration officials next month, and she put pressure on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up election security measures in the Senate.
“Next month we will take further steps to harden our democratic institutions against attacks, and on July 10 we will receive the all-member election security briefing we requested from the administration so we can continue to protect the American people,” Pelosi said.
So far, McConnell has refused to allow votes on any election security proposals, citing concerns that the measures erode state authority over elections.
But some Senate Democrats are fighting the Kentucky Republican’s position, attempting to force votes on election security bills with procedural moves.
Last week, Virginia Democrat Mark Warner tried to move a bill that would require campaigns to report contact with foreign nationals seeking to meddle in elections, but his unanimous consent request was thwarted by Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn.
Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar tried to force a vote earlier this week on a measure that would require backup paper ballots and would authorize $1 billion in election security grants for states to improve election security issues. Oklahoma Republican James Lankford blocked the move.
Sen. Ron Wyden joined Pelosi on Wednesday to advocate for the House measure, and the Oregon Democrat said that members of his party would spend the July Fourth recess “fanning out all across the country” to spread the word about election security efforts. He, too, invoked Paul Revere’s ride during the American Revolution.
“We’re going to have a simple message: Pass legislation with provisions of the SAFE Act, and tell Mitch McConnell that the future of our democracy is too important for him to stand in its way,” Wyden said, using the measure’s acronym.
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