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 WydenOn The Money: Senate Dems pump brakes on new stimulus checks | Trump officials sued over tax refunds | Fed to soon open small-business lending program Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Voting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 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 SandersJudd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Biden's 'allies' gearing up to sink his campaign Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenJudd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Vogue's Anna Wintour urges Biden to pick woman of color for VP Biden should name a 'team of colleagues' MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThis week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic City leaders, Democratic lawmakers urge Trump to tamp down rhetoric as protests rage across US Sunday shows - George Floyd's death, protests bump COVID-19 from headlines MORE (D-N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (D-N.Y.), and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisJudd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Vogue's Anna Wintour urges Biden to pick woman of color for VP Biden should name a 'team of colleagues' 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 Charles PetersComey, Rice, Clapper among GOP senator's targets for subpoenas amid Obama-era probe GOP chairman to seek subpoena power in investigation of Russia probe, 'unmasking' requests Michigan GOP candidate's Senate petition deemed 'insufficient' over signatures 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.”