In a surprise u-turn, senate Republicans have decided to back Democrat calls for an extra $250m to enhance the security of the nation’s voting infrastructure.
Speaking on the floor yesterday, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said: “I’m proud the Financial Services & General Government bill will include a bipartisan amendment providing another $250 million for the administration and security of their elections, to help states improve their defenses and shore up their voting systems.”
Republicans have twice blocked attempts to bring legislation to the floor designed to improve election security, in 2018 and then again in July this year. Both times they claimed that states had still not spent the $380m they were given in 2018.
“This morning, after months and months and months of Republican resistance, and months of insistent Democratic pressure, senate Republicans have finally agreed to support our Democratic request for additional election security funding in advance of the 2020 elections,” responded senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer.
“A year ago, our Republican friends unfortunately and short-sightedly rejected this amendment. Well, maybe, just maybe, they are starting to come around to our view that election security is necessary; that if Americans don’t believe their elections are on the up-and-up, woe is us as a country and as a democracy.”
However, even this sum may not be enough to provide the safeguards needed to improve resilience against possible Russian intrusions.
Marian Schneider, president of election transparency non-profit VerifiedVoting, argued that more is needed to help states shore up their security ahead of the 2020 Presidential election.
“This amount falls short of the $600m 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,” she added.
“By making federal funds available, states will be able to replace aging, insecure voting equipment and implement modern security best practices, which include using voter-marked paper ballots and robust post-election audits. Despite the progress shown today, congress still needs to vote on bipartisan, comprehensive election security legislation to protect and ensure trustworthy elections backed by adequate funds for state and local governments to implement such measures.”
A senate report from July warned that Russian hackers had likely compromised voting infrastructure in all 50 states ahead of the 2016 election.