Congress appears poised today to give state election officials a sorely-needed infusion of cash to fortify their voting and registration systems against cyberattacks.
An omnibus spending bill released Wednesday night and expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives later today includes $380 million in federal aid to states for election security. Senate action could come tonight or on Friday, when the full appropriations bill must be passed to avert a government shutdown.
The election security aid will be apportioned to states by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), using an existing formula in the Help America Vote Act.
“This is a strong first step toward protecting the 2018 election against the kinds of cyberattacks we saw in 2016 and which our intelligence community believes will be intensified this year,” said Susannah Goodman, Common Cause’s election security director. “Now it’s up to the states to use the money wisely so that voters can be confident that every qualified citizen can register and vote and every vote will be counted as cast.”
The legislation includes language supported by Common Cause and other election security advocates, directing states to use the money to:
- Replace outdated electronic voting systems, which are vulnerable to hackers, with equipment that produces a paper record, verifiable by the voter, of each ballot cast.
- Implement “risk-limiting” audits, which election analysts say are the most reliable way to ensure that machine-generated ballot counts reflect the actual election results.
- Upgrade election related computer systems to counter potential cyberattacks.
- Provide cybersecurity training to state and local election officials
- Implement cybersecurity “best practices” to shore up registration and voting systems against online attacks.
“Congratulations are in order for Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner and their colleagues on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee for highlighting the need for a stronger federal response to the cyberthreat,” Goodman said. “We hope they and the entire Congress will remain attentive to this problem and supply additional aid next year and beyond. There is every indication that the threat of cyberattacks will only increase.”
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections