House passes sweeping Democrat-backed election security bill

House passes sweeping Democrat-backed election security bill
© Greg Nash

The House passed a Democrat-backed bill that would require election systems to use voter-verified paper ballots as an attempt to avoid election interference by a party-line vote of 225-184 on Tuesday, with only one Republican voting in favor. 

The Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act — spearheaded by Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenAl Green says impeachment is 'only solution' to Trump's rhetoric Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Ann Coulter offers rare praise for Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib MORE (D-Calif.) — would authorize $600 million for the Election Assistance Commission, which would be allocated to states to enhance their security ahead of 2020 and includes language that would ban voting machines from being connected to the internet and being produced in foreign countries.

In addition to the $600 million, the bill would provide $175 million biannually for “sustainment” funds aimed at maintaining election infrastructure.

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It would also create a $5 million grant program administered by the National Science Foundation to research accessible paper ballot verification methods to address the needs of voters with disabilities and voters who speak English as their second language. 

Republicans blasted the bill, arguing Democrats politicized legislation they feel could have passed the chamber without certain polarizing provisions. 

“Mandating the exclusive use of paper ballots will create longer lines at polling places and can be lost, destroyed or manipulated far easier than electronic voting machines with a paper trail backup,” Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisRepublicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings House passes sweeping Democrat-backed election security bill Transportation lawmakers race scooters in House office building MORE (R-Ill.) said earlier this week on the floor. 

“I want to highlight the fact that there's no evidence of voting machines being hacked in 2016, 2018 or ever,” Davis added. “So why are we forcing states to get rid of what they deem the safe technology? We should work together to safeguard technology, not abandon it.”

Davis is the ranking Republican of the House Administration Committee, which approved the bill along party lines late last week. During the committee markup, Davis repeatedly tried to introduce amendments, with the Democratic majority voting down all of them. 

Rep. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastBuzz Aldrin marks launch of Apollo 11 mission to the moon Overnight Energy: Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals' | Republicans form conservation caucus | Pressure mounts against EPA's new FOIA rule Republicans form conservation caucus to take on environment, climate change MORE (R-Fla.) was the only Republican to vote for the bill.

Prior to the vote, congressional Democrats held a press conference to push for passage of the bill.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDHS chief to Pelosi: Emergency border funding 'has already had an impact' The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Trump faces new hit on deficit MORE (D-Calif.) said that the SAFE Act is intended to “further strengthen the defenses of our democracy,” while Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US MORE (D-N.Y.) added that “we're standing with our House colleagues today — we're standing with the American people today, to protect the integrity of our elections.”

The bill now joins a growing pile of legislation awaiting a vote in the Senate.

But few of these bills stand a chance in the face of Republican pushback against Democratic election security measures.

Schumer last week vowed to continue pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants GOP rattled by Trump rally Third Kentucky Democrat announces challenge to McConnell MORE (R-Ky.) to either allow floor votes on election security bills or outright block the various pieces of legislation. McConnell has so far stood firm in resisting votes on election security bills, citing concerns around federalizing elections.

On Tuesday, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Biden, Harris set for second Democratic debate showdown Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator MORE (D-Minn.) attempted to force a vote to allow the Senate to consider her Election Security Act, but was blocked by Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordOvernight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran Senators urge Trump to sanction Turkey for accepting Russian missile shipment Acosta on shaky ground as GOP support wavers MORE (R-Okla.). This legislation would require backup paper ballots and provide $1 billion in election security grants for states to improve election security issues. 

This came a week after Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing MORE (D-Va.) also attempted to force the Senate to pass his legislation requiring campaigns to report contacts with foreign nationals seeking to interfere in elections, but was blocked by Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnAdvocates urge Senate privacy group to center consumers, not companies Hillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Senators introduce legislation to boost cyber defense training in high school MORE (R-Tenn.).