Cybersecurity

House Republicans introduce legislation to give states $400 million for elections

A group of House Republicans on Monday introduced legislation that would appropriate $400 million to states to address election challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Emergency Assistance for Safe Elections (EASE) Act would designate $200 million to assist with sanitizing in-person polling stations and purchasing personal protective equipment, while a further $100 million would go towards recruiting and training new poll workers, following a nationwide shortage of workers due to the pandemic.

The final $100 million would be appropriated for states to maintain the accuracy of their voter registration lists.

Other provisions in the bill include measures to increase the cybersecurity of the elections process, including establishing an election cyber assistance unit at the Election Assistance Commission, and updating voluntary voting system guidelines established by the Help America Vote Act to cover next-generation voting technology, such as e-pollbooks. 

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the ranking member of the House Administration Committee and the lead sponsor of the bill, said in a statement that it was “critical” the bill is included in the next COVID-19 relief package to help states struggling with new election challenges. 

“Most states are faced with running essentially two kinds of elections this fall: in-person and expanded mail-in voting, which means added costs to get it right,” Davis said. “When states failed to do this in recent primaries, the risk of disenfranchising voters increased significantly.”

Davis emphasized that “continuing to engage with local election officials and provide oversight of states will be necessary to protect the right to vote in the November election.”

Other sponsors of the bill include House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), along with Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), Dan Meuser (R-Penn.), Don Young (R-Ark.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).

The legislation was introduced as leaders of the House and Senate lock heads over what measures to include in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.

The HEROES Act, a Democrat-backed stimulus package passed by the House along party lines in May, included $3.6 billion to help states address new concerns around elections, such as the influx in mail-in voting and ensuring in-person voting is safe. 

The proposed stimulus package rolled out by Senate Republicans last week did not include any funds, leading to strong concerns from officials on both sides of the aisle.

Congress previously appropriated $400 million for elections as part of the CARES Act stimulus package signed into law by President Trump in March, but experts have argued $4 billion is needed to full address election challenges. 

A spokesperson for Davis told The Hill that Senate counterparts were “aware” of the new legislation, noting that Davis was “hopeful that this could be a more realistic starting point than what the House Democrats’ included in the Heroes Act, which also places a ton of mandates on states.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairman of the elections-focused Senate Rules Committee, told reporters last week that he would open to “putting a reasonable amount of money on the table” for elections, but would not support an amount as high as $3.6 billion. 

Tags Brett Guthrie Dan Meuser Devin Nunes Don Young Donald Trump Elise Stefanik Ken Calvert Mario Diaz-Balart Michael McCaul Rodney Davis Roy Blunt Steve Chabot

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