State officials beg Congress for more election security funding

State officials beg Congress for more election security funding
© Greg Nash

The secretaries of state for Connecticut and Louisiana on Thursday called on Congress to appropriate more funding to boost election security heading into 2020.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) and Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill (D) said additional federal funding is the best way Congress can help states shore up election security and ward off cyberattacks.

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“Resources are always helpful and necessary,” Ardoin said. “We all have the same expectation, which is a secure environment for our elections, and that every vote is accurately counted and everybody gets to participate who wishes to participate.”

He added that secretaries of state are “constantly asking for additional resources to fend off cybersecurity issues, to update equipment, and to do what is necessary to secure our elections and offer our people the right to vote.”

Congress appropriated $380 million to the EAC last year to distribute to states ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The funding came two years after Russia's efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

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Congressional Democrats have since pushed for more state money, but Republicans have pushed back, arguing Congress should respect state jurisdiction over elections, while noting that not all of the $380 million has been spent.

Louisiana received $5.8 million as part of last year's disbursement. According to Ardoin, the state has used the money to purchase new voting equipment and has “absorbed” cybersecurity needs in its own budget.

Merrill, whose state received $5.1 million of the congressional funds, echoed Ardoin’s call for further federal assistance.

“This is one of the fundamental operations of government. You’re not going to privatize elections, and so it’s time we put some dollars behind what’s happening,” Merrill said. “I do think some funding needs to come from the federal level.”

Ardoin also called for officials at the local, state and federal levels to come together on election security.

“Let’s face it, we’re all in one large ship, and that is the ship of America," he said. "And if we aren’t all working together to secure our elections and fund our elections appropriately, then what are we here for?"