Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., joined his Senate colleagues Friday in introducing legislation they said would help combat foreign interference in elections by providing state and local governments with information and resources they need to better secure election infrastructure.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated election infrastructure as a critical infrastructure, but that designation only provides expedited access to DHS information. It does not provide local jurisdictions with the resources they need to modernize and upgrade infrastructure to keep elections secure.
The Helping State and Local Governments Prevent Cyber Attacks Act is cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Al Franken, D-Minn., Mark Udall, D-Colo., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of American democracy,” Wyden said. “American voters should not have to worry about the safety and integrity of their electoral systems. This legislation will provide necessary resources to local and state election infrastructure to help preserve our democratic systems, and ensure that our elections do not remain vulnerable to interference.”
The Helping State and Local Governments Prevent Cyber Attacks Act amends the Help America Vote Act by requiring the Election Assistance Commission to hold public hearings and establish recommendations for both election cybersecurity and election audits. Once those best practices are finalized, the bill provides for a grant program that helps provide states with $325 million in grant funds to implement these strategies. Additionally, the bill will
• Create an online federal voter registration form to provide all eligible Americans with access to online voter registration;
• Require the United States Post Office to connect its change-of-address services with the online federal form to streamline voter registration for Americans who move;
• Strengthen the accuracy of voting lists by notifying previous jurisdictions when Americans move and register in a new location;
• Protect the right to vote by allowing voters who had previously registered in a state to update their address through Election Day; and
• Provide an opportunity for all eligible Americans to vote at a convenient time.
Wyden has advocated for increasing the security of voting systems, and proposed easier, safer voting alternatives. Earlier this year, Wyden introduced the Vote By Mail Act in order to expand Oregon-style vote-by-mail nationwide, which would help voters overcome obstacles that prevent them from casting their ballots.
The Vote By Mail Act requires every state to provide registered voters the opportunity to vote by mailing their ballot. By doing so, voters would be able to bypass long lines at polling stations, and would not have to take time off from work to vote. The legislation would also help voter turnout among seniors and people with disabilities.
Oregon became the first state in the country to implement a vote-by-mail system in 2000. Since then, it has consistently ranked as one of the states with the highest voter-turnout in the nation, and has helped to significantly reduce voter fraud, the senator noted.