Senate Dems introduce election security bill requiring paper ballots

Senate Dems introduce election security bill requiring paper ballots
© Getty Images

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump poised to kick off election-year fight over Medicaid Overnight Health Care: Justices won't fast-track ObamaCare case before election | New virus spreads from China to US | Collins challenger picks up Planned Parenthood endorsement Mnuchin warns UK, Italy of tariffs if digital tax plans are implemented 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 SandersSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump on Clinton's Sanders comments: 'She's the one that people don't like' MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Hillary Clinton tears open wound with her attack on Sanders MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerPatrick backs reparations in unveiling 'Equity Agenda for Black Americans' Booker ahead of Trump impeachment trial: 'History has its eyes on us' Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial MORE (D-N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial Overnight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 MORE (D-N.Y.), and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRep. Bobby Rush endorses Bloomberg's White House bid Actor Michael Douglas endorses Bloomberg for president Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover-up,' 'national disgrace' MORE (D-Calif.). Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is planning to introduce a companion bill in the House.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 PetersHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Bipartisan group of senators introduces legislation to boost state cybersecurity leadership The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial 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.”