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 LofgrenDemocrats accuse Barr of helping Trump distract from coronavirus State and local officials beg Congress to send more election funds ahead of November FEC commissioner resigns, leaving agency without a quorum again 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 DavisGOP lawmakers comply with Pelosi's mask mandate for House floor Hillicon Valley: Trump raises idea of delaying election, faces swift bipartisan pushback | Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google release earnings reports | Senators ask Justice Department to investigate TikTok, Zoom The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces pushback after suggesting election could be delayed 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 MastMost Black women since 2004 running for office this year Democrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers House Republicans push back against proxy voting 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 PelosiGOP lawmaker: Democratic Party 'used to be more moderate' White House not optimistic on near-term stimulus deal Sunday shows - Stimulus debate dominates MORE (D-Calif.) said that the SAFE Act is intended to “further strengthen the defenses of our democracy,” while Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMeadows: 'I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term' on coronavirus package Biden calls on Trump, Congress to enact an emergency housing program Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery 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 McConnellGOP scrambles to fend off Kobach in Kansas primary Meadows: Election will be held on November third Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency 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 KlobucharSenators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery GOP sparks backlash after excluding election funds from COVID-19 bill Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power 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 LankfordSenate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Ballooning Fed balance sheet sparks GOP concerns  The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Lauren Underwood says Americans face economic crisis if Senate fails to act on unemployment benefits extension; US surpasses 4 million cases, 1,000+ deaths for third straight day 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 WarnerMini-exodus of Trump officials from Commerce to lobby on semiconductors Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding Virginia governor, senators request CDC aid with coronavirus outbreak at immigrant detention facility 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 BlackburnGOP may face choice on tax cut or stimulus checks Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases MORE (R-Tenn.).