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Bipartisan groups urge Congress to boost election security grants

Letters note threats from cyberattacks, public support for federal role

A bipartisan group of more than three dozen former election officials, members of Congress and cabinet secretaries is calling for an increase in federal funding for election security to counter cyber threats.
A Vote Here sign is seen on Election Day at Eastern Market in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Corrected, 11:59 a.m. | A bipartisan group of more than three dozen former and current election officials, members of Congress and Cabinet secretaries is calling for increased federal funding for election security to counter cyberthreats.

In a letter to the House and Senate shared first with CQ Roll Call, members of the National Council on Election Integrity are seeking at least $400 million in fiscal 2024 for election security grants.

“Foreign and domestic bad actors have demonstrated the capacity to cast doubt on the legitimacy of a safe and secure election through advanced AI-fueled disinformation, cyber attacks on registration systems, malign finance operations, and targeting of electrical systems during critical voting or tabulation periods,” the group wrote. “The lack of adequate federal funding to match the cyber threat has left our election system at increasing risk.” 

The request comes as House Republicans are looking to sharply reduce spending without significantly cutting Social Security, Medicare or military programs. President Joe Biden’s budget request for the fiscal year that starts in October seeks $5 billion over 10 years to “restore and strengthen democracy.” Congress this year appropriated $75 million for election security grants to states and localities, the same as fiscal 2022, according to the Election Assistance Commission’s budget justification.

The National Council on Election Integrity, which is affiliated with Issue One, a bipartisan advocacy group that also seeks to overhaul campaign finance laws, said in the letter that Congress has a “Constitutional duty to secure federal elections, and the American people overwhelmingly support appropriating federal funds to do so.”

The group cites a new poll commissioned by Issue One and conducted by Citizen Data that found nearly 70 percent of all Americans believe the federal government should play a larger role than state or local governments in funding elections. The online survey of 1,047 citizens conducted in early March and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The council’s membership comes from across the political spectrum and includes former Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle, Mary Landrieu and Tim Wirth; former Republican Reps. Charles Boustany, Barbara Comstock, Carlos Curbelo, Steve Gunderson, Connie Morella, Susan Molinari and Zach Wamp; and former Democratic Reps. Richard Gephardt, Jane Harman, Leon Panetta and Tim Roemer. Donna Brazile, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Tom Ridge, the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of Homeland Security, are also part of the group.

Faces of Democracy, a group of state and local election officials and workers also affiliated with Issue One, also sent a letter to Congress pressing for federal funding for elections.

“State and local governments have long taken the lead in administering and paying for elections in the United States, but Congress has both a constitutional role and a responsibility to protect the security of federal elections,” the group wrote. 

The election officials say overseeing elections has become far more complex in recent years.

“We are proud to shoulder that responsibility,” the letter states. “But today that responsibility carries with it a set of tasks and threats that simply did not exist twenty years ago. Those threats require a concerted response from every level of our government.”

This report has been corrected to reflect the group Faces of Democracy includes current officials.

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