House panel advances election security bill requiring paper ballots

House panel advances election security bill requiring paper ballots
© Greg Nash

A House committee on Friday advanced legislation that would require election systems use voter-verified paper ballots to guard against election interference.

The House Administration Committee approved the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act in a 6-3 party-line vote.

Committee Chairwoman Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenBusiness groups start gaming out a Biden administration Top Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility MORE (D-Calif.) told The Hill that the House will vote on the measure sometime next week.

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The legislation would establish cybersecurity safeguards, such as prohibiting machines from being connected to the internet in any way and outlawing voting machines from being manufactured in a foreign country.

The measure authorizes $600 million in funding for the Election Assistance Commission to give to states to increase security standards through the fiscal 2020 financial services and general government funding bill. The House Appropriations Committee approved that spending bill, with the election funds, earlier this month.

Beyond the $600 million, the measure would give states $175 million biannually for “sustainment” funds to help maintain election infrastructure and establish a $5 million grant program administered by the National Science Foundation to study accessible paper ballot verification methods to address voters with disabilities and those whose first language is not English.

Lofgren, the main sponsor of the bill, said during the markup that “we have made modest progress to bolster our defenses” and that the legislation will respond to the “urgency” of election security threats.

However, the bill was met strong GOP opposition, with Republicans on the committee saying the measure is designed to federally “take over” elections from states. They also noted that the 2018 midterm elections did not fall victim to election interference.

Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisHouse passes legislation to boost election security research House Republicans investigating California secretary of state's contract with Biden-linked firm House Democrats' campaign arm releases ads hitting 10 Republicans on health care MORE (R-Ill.), the committee's ranking member, compared the measure to H.R. 1, which was passed along party lines by the House in March. Republicans strongly objected to that bill, which including sweeping voting reform and security measures.

He also accused Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Trump signs largely symbolic pre-existing conditions order amid lawsuit MORE (D-Calif.) of scuttling talks between Democrats and Republicans on the committee on putting together a bipartisan election security bill.

“There are a lot of things in our bill and in their bill that we can agree on, but then all of a sudden leadership from Speaker Pelosi’s office and the Democrat leadership team basically said stop negotiating with Republicans, and that is not what the American people want,” Davis told The Hill.

Pelosi’s office did not immediately provide a response to a request for comment.

However, a committee spokesperson for Lofgren told The Hill that Davis's accusation was “false” and that Republicans and Democrats were unable to come to an agreement on the language in the bill due to disagreements over what the legislation mandates for elections.

While the House is likely to pass the measure, it stands little chance of advancing in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces backlash after not committing to peaceful transition of power MORE (R-Ky.) has refused to bring election security legislation to the floor for a vote. He has referred to H.R. 1 as being the “Democrat Politician Protection Act."

Lofgren said she plans to introduce legislation on “the propaganda issue” involved in election security.