Congressional Compromise Yields $425M In New Election Security Funding

[Image via washington.org]

Congressional negotiators have reached a compromise that will deliver $425 million in new federal election security funds to states – with matching requirements that will push the number over $500 million. The Hill has more:

The spending deal agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators includes $425 million for states to improve their election security, two congressional source confirmed to The Hill on Monday.

According to the sources, the appropriations deal, set to be made public later Monday, will also include a requirement for states to match 20 percent of the federal funds, meaning the eventual amount given to election officials to improve election security would reach $510 million.

The federal funds set to be given to states through the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) represent a compromise between the amounts separately offered by the House and Senate earlier this year for election security purposes.

The deal represents a decision to meet at the midpoint of the two chambers’ preferred appropriation levels but yields to the Senate on a broader use of the funds:

The House included $600 million for election security efforts in its version of the fiscal 2020 Financial Services and General Government Bill, which the chamber passed earlier this year.

In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee included $250 million for election security in its version of the same bill, an amount that had bipartisan support and was backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The two chambers disagreed, however, over how the funds could be used, with the House requiring states to use the money for specific election security improvements such as replacing equipment and the Senate allowing a broader use of the funds.

One of the congressional sources told The Hill that the funding deal used the language in the Senate version, which requires the money to be used “for activities to improve the administration of elections for federal office, including to enhance election technology and make election security improvements.”

This will be the second large-scale investment in election security in the last few years, following the initial funds made available in the 2018 omnibus funding bill:

Congress previously appropriated $380 million to the EAC to give out to states to improve election security in 2018.

EAC Chairwoman Christy McCormick told the Senate Rules Committee during testimony in May that about 29 percent of the funds had been spent by states as of April 30, and that the EAC expected around 85 percent of the funds to be used prior to the 2020 elections. States have until the end of fiscal year 2023 to use the funds designated to them in 2018.

State and local election officials have repeatedly begged Congress to give them more funding to address election security concerns, particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 elections.

As with any appropriations compromise, several key hurdles remain: final passage by Congress, approval by the President, transfer to the EAC for distribution to the states – and of course, the state match requirements, which will require legislation in state capitols during an election year (never an easy feat). Still, it’s a welcome sign for states and localities looking for federal help in shoring up their election systems. Stay tuned …

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