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Dems move to give grants to states for boosting voting security, access to polls

Dems move to give grants to states for boosting voting security, access to polls
© Greg Nash

A pair of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation on Tuesday that would give federal grants to states to boost voting system security and increase voter access to elections.

Reps. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyOvernight Defense: Top Pentagon nominee advances after Harris casts tie-breaker | Air Force general charged with sexual assault first to face court-martial | House passes bill to limit Saudi arms sales House passes bill limiting arms sales to Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi killing Pelosi renews call for congressional commission to investigate Capitol riot MORE (Va.) and Jim Langevin (R.I.) introduced the Fair, Accurate, Secure, and Timely (FAST) Voting Act to improve voter participation and voting system security and encourage automatic voter registration. 

“Access to the ballot is fundamental to American democracy,” Connolly said in a statement. “In recent years, several states have taken action to restrict the franchise under the guise of preventing ‘voter fraud.’ America doesn’t have a voter fraud problem; we have a participation problem. Rather than erect barriers, we should be looking for innovative ways to expand the franchise and streamline the voting process.” 

Connolly appeared to buck President Trump's claim of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 presidential election. 

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The bill would let states compete for federal funding to implement policy changes aimed at increasing voter access to elections and boosting voting system security. It is modeled after the Department of Education’s Race to the Top program, which provides funding for states to develop student assessments. 

The Election Assistance Commission would award grants to states based on their previous reform efforts and plans for future innovation.

“The right to vote is essential, and we must foster innovative solutions to bring down every barrier to casting a ballot. This is especially true for those in need of flexibility or assistance, such as people with disabilities, members of the armed services, seniors, and minority voters,” Langevin said Tuesday. 

“As a former secretary of State, I know how critically important these efforts can be to increasing voter participation and fostering an inclusive electoral process where every American has a voice,” he said. 

The lawmakers introduced similar legislation with six other Democratic co-sponsors in 2012, but it was never put up for a vote.

The legislation comes on the heels of concerns about the security of voting systems in the wake of Russia’s alleged hacking and disinformation campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election and getting Trump elected.

The intelligence community concluded in January that Russian intelligence accessed elements of various state and local electoral boards, though none were involved in vote tallying. 

Dozens of states asked federal officials for help securing their voting systems ahead of Election Day, following reports of voting database breaches in Arizona and Illinois. 

States applying for grants tied to voting system security would need to show their record in using voting systems that are less than 10 years old and generate a paper trail at polling places, conducting pre-election testing on each voting machine, and abiding by a policy to secure voters’ personal information, in addition to other steps, according to the legislation.

This post was updated at 6:31 p.m.