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 LofgrenGun epidemic is personal for lawmakers touched by violence House Democrats demand administration consult with Congress before determining refugee admissions Lobbying World 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 DavisGroups push lawmakers for hearings on voting machine security House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 House Democrats target 2020 GOP incumbents in new ad 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 MastThe 9 House Republicans who support background checks Two cats visit Capitol Hill to thank lawmakers who helped end 'kitten slaughterhouse' Buzz Aldrin marks launch of Apollo 11 mission to the moon 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 PelosiProgressives call for impeachment inquiry after reported Kavanaugh allegations The promise and peril of offshoring prescription drug pricing Words matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump 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 SchumerSinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall Pelosi: 'People are dying' because McConnell won't bring up gun legislation 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 McConnellO'Rourke responds to Buttigieg's gun criticism: 'That calculation and fear is what got us here in the first place' Cicilline on Trump investigations versus legislation: 'We have to do both' The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation 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 KlobucharSunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Klobuchar: Investigation into Kavanaugh 'a sham' Sunday shows preview: Democratic candidates make the rounds after debate 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 LankfordGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank GOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads 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 Warner2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft State probes of Google, Facebook to test century-old antitrust laws Hillicon Valley: Trump fires Bolton as national security adviser | DOJ indicts hundreds over wire-transfer scam | CEOs push for federal privacy law | Lyft unveils new safety features after sexual assault allegations 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 BlackburnThe evolution of Taylor Swift's political activism Kellyanne Conway responds to Taylor Swift criticism by invoking pop star's lyrics Is there internet life after thirty? MORE (R-Tenn.).