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House-passed funding package includes $500M for election security upgrades

House-passed funding package includes $500M for election security upgrades
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The House approved $500 million in election security funding for states as part of an annual appropriations package approved Friday.

The 2021 appropriations package approved by the House along mostly party lines included $500 million as part of funding for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The funds were part of a wider deal that also included funding for the departments of Defense, Energy, Justice, Commerce, Transportation, Health and Human Services, and Labor, among other measures. 

The funds, which would be distributed by the EAC to states, are required to be used for replacing “direct-recording electronic” voting equipment with voting systems that use some form of paper ballots. States would only be allowed to use any remaining funds once they have certified to the EAC that all direct-recording election equipment has been replaced. 

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“The bill includes $500 million in election security grants to help states acquire resources and equipment to conduct safe, secure, and on time elections,” Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyThis week: Congress races to wrap work for the year GSA offers to brief Congress next week on presidential transition Democrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins MORE (D-Ill.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, said on the House floor ahead of the vote. 

“This issue is especially relevant now, as states are currently facing the need to adjust their processes to accommodate conducting an election in the middle of a pandemic,” he added.

EAC Chairman Ben Hovland, who was nominated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE, told The Hill Friday that his agency was ready to distribute any funds appropriated to states for election security. 

"I have consistently heard from election officials of both parties that additional federal funding is needed and will help ensure the election is run as smoothly as possible during this pandemic," Hovland said. "If Congress appropriates additional funding for state and local election officials, the EAC is ready to distribute that money as quickly as possible."

The funding package was approved in the midst of an ongoing debate on Capitol Hill over whether to send states further election security funds.

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Congress has appropriated more than $800 million in election security grants to states since 2018, and the coronavirus stimulus bill signed into law by President Trump in March included $400 million to help election officials address voting challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Democrats included $3.6 billion in the HEROES Act that passed along party lines in May, but the new proposed stimulus package rolled out by Senate Republicans earlier this week did not include any further funding, prompting backlash from election officials and advocacy groups. 

The House passed its funding package Friday after President Trump suggested in a tweet the previous day that the Nov. 3 presidential election be delayed due to concerns over mail-in voting fraud.

The president does not have the power to change the date of the election, with that power given to Congress by the Constitution. 

Trump’s suggestion was met with swift bipartisan pushback on Capitol Hill, with officials including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Criminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot MORE (R-Ky.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMcConnell: COVID-19 relief will be added to omnibus spending package Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Top Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon MORE (R-Calif.) all stating publicly that the election would not be delayed. 

The funds were also approved a week after a top intelligence community official warned that Russia, Iran and China were seeking to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections and as Democratic leaders, including Pelosi, have actively sought congressional briefings from the FBI on new threats to election security.

-Updated at 5 p.m. to include a statement from EAC Chairman Hovland.