As primaries ramp up in states across the U.S., concerns about election cybersecurity are mounting too. This week, a group of Democratic senators introduced a bill to mitigate some of the well-established risks that the nation’s uneven mix of voting machines and election systems poses.
The new bill, known as the Protecting American Votes and Elections Act, proposes two significant measures. First, because not all digital voting systems produce a paper trail, it would require all state and local elections to ensure that their equipment produces voter-verified paper ballots that can be cross-referenced. Second, for all federal elections regardless of outcome, state and local governments would be required to conduct audits comparing digital ballots to a random selection of paper ballots. The latter policy would cover the 22 states that currently don’t require audits following elections.
“Leaving the fate of America’s democracy up to hackable election machines is like leaving your front door open, unlocked and putting up a sign that says ‘out of town.’ It’s not a question of if bad guys get in, it’s just a question of when,” Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement accompanying the bill.
Voting integrity is one of Wyden’s pet issues and the senator has pressed for his home state of Oregon’s vote-by-mail system to be adopted nationally.
Wyden is joined by Democratic Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Patty Murray and Elizabeth Warren on the legislation. Congressman Earl Blumenauer plans to introduce a corresponding bill in the house.
“We know that Russia hacked into American voter systems to influence our election – and we know they’ll try to do it again,” Sen. Warren said. “Our national security experts have warned us that the country’s election infrastructure is vulnerable – this bill will take important steps to help secure it.”
While the bill isn’t a bipartisan proposal — yet, anyway — these same measures are widely supported by election security experts as well as the Department of Homeland Security and a Senate Intelligence Committee report offering recommendations for securing the vote from earlier this year.
The full text of the bill is embedded below.
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