The House has approved $500 million in election security funding for states as part of a $1.3 trillion appropriations package for fiscal 2021 ended September 30, 2021.
The funds, which must be used to replace direct-recording electronic voting systems with paper ballots, will be distributed by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to the states. Should the states have any funds left over after complying with the mandate, the remaining money can be used for any election-related security purpose at their discretion. The text of the bill is here.
“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 Quigley (D-IL.), who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, said. “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 said.
Senate Republicans have not included any new funding to help states and local governments administer elections in their coronavirus aid package currently being fought over with Democrats in a high stakes battle. House Democrats in May proposed sending $3.6 billion to state and local officials to help them hold elections during the pandemic, which has prompted expanding vote-by-mail options and investing in protective equipment for poll workers. Democrats have also called for a nationwide vote-by-mail option.
Three weeks ago, The House Appropriations Committee approved a $56 billion fiscal year 2021 spending package for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that includes $2.25 billion for operations of its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) cyber wing. The CISA appropriation amounts to a $240 million bump above fiscal 2020 spending levels and nearly $500 million more than the agency requested. It includes $11.6 million to establish a new Joint Cyber Center.
"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," EAC Chairman Ben Hovland told The Hill. "If Congress appropriates additional funding for state and local election officials, the EAC is ready to distribute that money as quickly as possible," he said.
The coronavirus stimulus bill signed into law by President Trump in March included $400 million to the EAC to provide grants to the states in response to the coronavirus for the 2020 election cycle. The money, far less than the $4 billion some Democrats had wanted, would allow states to expand mail-in and early voting, as well as online voter registration. The money could also be used to help secure in-person voting sites. The Senate GOP bill allocated $140 million in its bill.
In the last two years, election security funding for the federal government and the states has seen a number of bills languish in the Senate without a floor vote.