Election Security is a Key Part of House Democrats' Reform Bill

People fill out their ballots at a polling place during the U.S. midterm election Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Silver Spring, Md.

People fill out their ballots at a polling place during the U.S. midterm election Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Silver Spring, Md. AP Photo

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H.R. 1 would codify many of the security measures lawmakers have pushed for the last two years.

The sweeping government reform legislation proposed by House Democrats last week would provide states with federal funding to improve their election infrastructure and support bug bounty programs to improve election cybersecurity.

One of first bills of the 116th Congress, the For the People Act would also charge the Homeland Security Department with sharing information about election threats with state officials and test the security of voting systems nine months before every federal election.

The legislation, introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., would mandate many of the key election security measures lawmakers have spent the last two years advocating. Previous attempts to lock down voting infrastructure were mired by legal hair-splitting and funding concerns, despite generally bipartisan support.

Under the House bill, states would receive federal subsidies to improve election infrastructure, invest in paper ballot systems and audit elections after the fact. The federal government would also fund efforts to explore innovative infrastructure changes.

Homeland Security would be required to create a commission to defend “U.S. democratic institutions” against foreign threats and keep election systems designated as critical infrastructure.

Most of the provisions are derived from the Election Security Act, which House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., introduced last year.

Beyond election security, the broad bill also includes provisions to remove cumbersome voter regulations, limit partisan gerrymandering and increase transparency around campaign finance. It also subsumed language from the Honest Ads Act, which would require online platforms to disclose who paid for political ads on their sites. 

Jack Corrigan is a Staff Correspondent at Nextgov, which originally published this article. 

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