U.S. SENATE News:
WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), along with 37 of their colleagues, wrote a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging an increase in funding for election security grants and the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 to help secure upcoming elections in New Mexico and across the country.
Established by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the EAC is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring accessible, secure, and accurate elections. Since its creation, the EAC has provided essential assistance to state and local election officials, set voting standards, certified voting equipment, and administered the country’s most comprehensive election survey, the Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS).
“Today, more than at any other time in our nation’s history, election officials face unique challenges that require federal support,” the senators wrote. “As we approach the 2020 elections, we must ensure that they have the resources they need to combat foreign interference and ensure that every American has easy access to the ballot box.”
The senators continued, “Recently, the Senate Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government voted to approve $250 million in grants to state and local governments to improve election security. This is far less than what is required to address ongoing election security concerns, and is less than half of the $600 million appropriated by the House this June. State and local officials require significant resources to improve election security and modernize election infrastructure. In addition to having more funding, the House Appropriations Committee includes language that would help strengthen our elections, like ensuring that federal dollars are used to replace paperless machines and improve election cybersecurity. As you work to pass appropriations for FY20, we urge you to include the highest possible appropriation and to accept the strong requirements enumerated in the House bill. These provisions are necessary to ensure election officials have the resources they need to secure our elections.”
Congress provided $380 million for election security grants under HAVA in FY 2018, of which New Mexico received nearly $3.7 million. However, the Republican majority in Congress provided no further funding in FY 2019. New Mexico is using these funds to upgrade voting equipment, conduct risk assessments, fund security staff and training, improve security of its voter registration system, and protect county-level systems from cyber risks.
Udall and Heinrich have been staunch advocates for improving election security. Sponsored by Udall and co-sponsored by Heinrich, the For the People Act includes provisions to protect American elections from foreign interference by creating a national strategy to protect our democratic institutions, increasing oversight over election vendors, and enhancing federal support for state voting system security upgrades, including paper ballot voting systems. Udall was a co-sponsor of the September 2019 amendment from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in the Senate Appropriations Committee that increased the FY 2020 Senate bill’s funding for election security from zero to $250 million.
Heinrich, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, co-authored the Secure Elections Act, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Udall to streamline cybersecurity information sharing between federal intelligence entities and state election agencies and to provide support for state election cybersecurity infrastructure. Heinrich helped lead the effort to secure $380 million last year for states to make election security improvements, implement cybersecurity guidelines, and replace outdated electronic voting machines.
In addition to Udall and Heinrich, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Tina Smith (D-Mich.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The full text of the letter can be found HERE.