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House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking

House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking
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Republicans on the House Administration Committee on Wednesday introduced legislation that would seek to update a long-standing federal election law and secure voter registration databases from foreign hacking attempts.

The Protect American Voters Act (PAVA) would require the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to establish the Emerging Election Technology Committee (EETC), which would help create voluntary guidelines for election equipment, such as voter registration databases, not covered under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

HAVA was signed into law in 2002 following problems with voting during the 2000 presidential election. The law established the EAC and set minimum election administration standards. 

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The EETC would be empowered to bypass the existing Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines process, which is a voluntary set of voting requirements that voting systems can be tested against to ensure their security and accessibility.

The new bill would also establish an Election Cyber Assistance Unit within the EAC, which would help connect state and local election officials across the country with cybersecurity experts who could provide technical support.  

Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisBipartisan lawmakers weigh in on post-pandemic health care costs The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP draws line on taxes; nation braces for Chauvin verdict Overnight Health Care: All adults in US now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine | White House launches media blitz to promote vaccines MORE (Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, sponsored the legislation alongside other committee Republicans, Reps. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerFormer Gov. Pat McCrory enters GOP Senate race in North Carolina Lara Trump leads GOP field in North Carolina Senate race, poll shows Former North Carolina governor set to launch Senate bid MORE (N.C.) and Barry Loudermilk (Ga.). 

Other co-sponsors were: Reps. Denver RigglemanDenver RigglemanRepublicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' Former GOP lawmaker calls idea of 'America First' caucus 'racism in a jar' Trump the X-factor in Virginia governor race MORE (R-Va.), Jim HagedornJames Lee HagedornREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Hagedorn holds onto Minnesota House seat Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night MORE (R-Minn.), Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Top GOP lawmaker touts 'more flexible' PPP loans in bipartisan proposal MORE (R-Ohio), Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungMcCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election The ocean can no longer be a climate victim Against mounting odds, Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan MORE (R-Alaska), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoRepublicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' Top House Republicans ask Harris for meeting on border Personal security costs for anti-Trump lawmakers spiked post-riot MORE (R-N.Y.), and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse passes bill to combat gender pay gap Business groups oppose Paycheck Fairness Act, citing concerns it could threaten bonuses and negotiating Ambitious House lawmakers look for promotions MORE (R-N.Y.)

Davis said in a statement on Wednesday that they were introducing the new bill to cover “non-voting technology” such as voter registration databases and electronic pollbooks that aren’t covered by existing laws.

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"When Russia attacked our election equipment in the 2016 presidential election, they didn't hack our vote-tallying machines,” Davis said. “Instead, they were able to infiltrate the non-voting systems in our election infrastructure. States didn't have much guidance on how best to protect those elements of the election ecosystem, like centralized online voter registration databases.”

He added that "registered American voters should not have to worry that their personal information will be hacked by a foreign agent. PAVA is a common-sense proposal to stop what we saw in 2016, and I hope my Democratic colleagues will join us in this endeavor to protect our election systems and the technology that may be developed for future elections in our nation." 

According to the report compiled by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE, Russian hackers targeted election networks across the country, and successfully hacked into the system in Illinois and were able to exfiltrate “data related to thousands of U.S. voters before the malicious activity was identified.”

Loudermilk said in a separate statement that “Russia’s attempts to interfere in previous elections is a prime example of why we need to ensure our voting infrastructure is secure and free from foreign influence.”

Davis led another group of House Republicans in October to introduce a separate election security-focused bill, the Honest Elections Act, which would make political advertisements more transparent 

An official for House Administration Committee Chairwoman Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenCapitol Police watchdog paints damning picture of Jan. 6 failures Capitol Police watchdog issues report slamming 'deficiencies' before riot Lofgren says she's been briefed on 'disturbing' police report on riot MORE (D-Calif.) told The Hill that while they were aware of the bill being introduced, they did not know any of the details prior to its introduction on Wednesday night. 

The House Administration Committee has focused heavily on election security and voting reform issues over the past year, with the committee advancing, along party lines, the three major election security and reform bills passed by the House in 2019. These three bills have stalled in the Senate amid Republican objections.