08.01.18

Senate GOP Blocks The Leahy Election Security Grants Amendment, Which Would Help States Bolster Voting And Election Security

Despite gaining the support of a majority of senators voting, an amendment to bolster election security efforts by the states, offered by Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), was blocked Wednesday by Senate Republicans.  Leahy’s amendment would strengthen election security ahead of the 2018 midterms by providing $250 million in grants to states.

The amendment to one of the four annual Appropriations bills pending on the Senate Floor fell on a vote of 50 to 47, gaining support from a majority of senators but failing to reach a 60 vote threshold.  Leahy’s amendment would have assisted states in improving election cyber security and replacing outdated election equipment. 

Leahy said:  “The integrity of our elections, which are the foundation of our democracy, should not be a partisan issue.  It is unfortunate that the Senate has followed the same path as House Republicans in blocking the funding our states need to help upgrade their infrastructure and secure our elections.  I fully intend to continue pursuing this issue in conference.”  

After the U.S. Intelligence Community’s unanimous assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, Congress came together and appropriated $380 million dollars for State Election Security Grants in the fiscal year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act – the first new funding appropriated by Congress for election security in years.  Since then, all 55 eligible states and territories have requested funding, 100 percent of these funds have been committed to the states, and 91 percent of those funds have been disbursed to the states – only four months after the Omnibus became law.

But the need for new resources to secure U.S. elections remains.  Last week 21 state attorneys general urged Congress in a letter to provide more funding to help states meet election security needs, writing:  “More funding is essential to adequately equip states with the financial resources we need to safeguard our democracy and protect the data of voting members in our states.”

Underscoring the urgent need for strengthened election security, Facebook Tuesday announced that it has identified an ongoing, coordinated campaign to influence American politics ahead of the 2018 midterms. 

Leahy previously offered his amendment in the Appropriations Committee, where it fell on a party line vote.  Last month, a similar amendment was blocked by House Republicans.

The Senate amendment was cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

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