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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 WydenHillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury 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 SandersThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Next steps in the Trump impeachment Sanders selling sweatshirts with his famous inauguration pose for charity Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for 0M Flint water crisis settlement Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory BookerDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Booker brings girlfriend, actress Rosario Dawson, to inauguration MORE (D-N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocrats torn on impeachment trial timing OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: 12 removed from National Guard inauguration security | Austin backs lifting transgender ban Biden Pentagon pick supports lifting transgender military ban MORE (D-N.Y.), and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSenators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal An ally in the White House is good for abortion access, but not enough LeBron James says 'it would be great' for champion Lakers to visit Biden White House 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 PetersThe Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Two Senate committees vow probe of security failure during Capitol riots US government caught blindsided over sophisticated cyber hack, experts say 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.”