States Need More Funds to Secure Elections

The federal government needs to provide further funding to states in order to fully secure elections, says a report published Thursday that cites six U.S. states – Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania – as examples.

The report compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice, the R Street Institute, the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security, and the Alliance for Securing Democracy, points to efforts by foreign actors to influence U.S. elections and undermine democracy.

“Elections are the pillar of American democracy, and, as we saw in 2016 and 2018, foreign governments will continue to target them. States cannot counter these adversaries alone, nor should they have to,” the authors wrote. “But at a time when free and fair elections are increasingly under attack, they can, with additional federal funding, safeguard them.”

Of the six states, four said that they needed additional federal funds to replace older voting systems that do not provide enough cybersecurity, while the other two said funds were needed to train election officials in cybersecurity.

The report stressed that “it is clear that the other 44 states and the District of Columbia have similar unfunded needs.” It further detailed how states use existing federal funding to improve election security.

Illinois, which had its voter database compromised by Russian hackers in 2016, has allocated all funds towards increasing cybersecurity. Arizona is likewise spending a great portion of the money on boosting cybersecurity, as well as on replacing its voter registration database. Louisiana is putting all of its current federal funds for election security into replacing voting equipment.

The report comes amid fierce debate on Capitol Hill on whether additional funds and legislation are needed to bolster election security. Democrats have been calling for it, while the GOP is generally happy with election security.

Financial Services and General Government funding bill for fiscal year 2020 was approved last month by the House, granting $600 million to the Election Security Commission, although the bill is highly unlikely to pass in the Senate.

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