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Senate Dems introduce election security bill requiring paper ballots

Senate Dems introduce election security bill requiring paper ballots
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Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenBad jobs report amplifies GOP cries to end 0 benefits boost Putting a price on privacy: Ending police data purchases Overnight Health Care: Biden sets goal of at least one shot to 70 percent of adults by July 4 | White House to shift how it distributes unallocated vaccines to states MORE (D-Ore.) and a group of 12 other senators introduced a bill Wednesday to mandate the use of paper ballots in U.S. elections and also ban all internet, Wi-Fi and mobile connections to voting machines in order to limit the potential for cyber interference.

Wyden’s office described the Protecting American Votes and Elections (PAVE) Act as “providing the strongest protections for American elections of any proposal currently before Congress.” 

The legislation would also give the Department of Homeland Security the power to set minimum cybersecurity standards for U.S. voting machines, authorize a one-time $500 million grant program for states to buy ballot-scanning machines to count paper ballots and require states to conduct risk-limiting audits of all federal elections in order to detect any cyber hacks.

Among the bill’s co-sponsors are 2020 presidential candidates Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders Sanders on Cheney drama: GOP is an 'anti-democratic cult' MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFree Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech Debate over ICBMs: Will 'defund our defenses' be next? Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory BookerBush testifies before Congress about racist treatment Black birthing people face during childbirth, pregnancy Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Never underestimate Joe Biden MORE (D-N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAustin tight lipped on whether to take sexual assault cases out of commanders' hands Gillibrand touts legislation to lower drug costs: This idea 'is deeply bipartisan' A bipartisan effort to prevent the scourge of sexual assault in the armed forces MORE (D-N.Y.), and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden to record video message for 'Vax Live' concert Harris says Mexico, US can work together to improve quality of life in Northern Triangle Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says 'it is time to pass the baton on to someone else' MORE (D-Calif.). Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is planning to introduce a companion bill in the House.

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“The Russian government interfered in American elections in 2016 and if we don't stop them, they and other governments are going to do it again,” Wyden said in a statement. “The administration refuses to do what it takes to protect our democracy, so Congress has to step up. Our bill will give voters the confidence they need that our elections are secure.”

Blumenauer said that “if the 2016 and 2018 elections taught us anything, it is that our election security systems are woefully inadequate."

"The Trump administration’s response has been lackluster, foreign actors continue to attempt to infiltrate our elections, and now there are serious concerns about Trump’s willingness to accept the results of the 2020 election," he added. "Mandatory paper ballots and risk-limiting audits are imperative to maintain the American public’s confidence in our elections.”

The bill’s introduction comes during a busy time for election legislation, with House Democrats introducing the Election Security Act last week and a bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersHillicon Valley: DOJ to review cyber challenges | Gaetz, House Republicans want to end funding for postal service surveillance | TikTok gets new CEO Senators introduce bipartisan bill to protect personal travel data Hillicon Valley: Acting FTC chair urges Congress to revive agency authority after Supreme Court ruling | Senate Intel panel working on breach notification bill MORE (D-Mich.) introducing the Voting System Cybersecurity Act on Tuesday. 

According to Wyden’s office, the PAVE Act has already been endorsed by groups including the League of Women Voters, the Brennan Center for Justice, Protect Democracy, Public Knowledge, Fair Fight Action and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with cyber experts from Princeton University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgetown University. 

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D), the founder of Fair Fight Action, said in a statement that “we must ensure that every citizen’s vote is protected against hackers who would thwart our constitutional rights as mute the will of the people."

"The PAVE Act will safeguard the votes of Americans in every state in the union, regardless of whether state elections officials find doing so politically expedient," she said. "I am proud to endorse Sen. Wyden’s legislation and bring real security to our elections.”