Congress’s Spending Deal to Include Election Security Funding for States: Brennan Center Reaction

Lawmakers announced today that Congress’s government-wide spending deal for 2020 will include $425 million for states to protect U.S. elections against foreign interference and other cyberattacks and malfunctions. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the final package this week.

Lawrence Norden, director of the Electoral Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, said:

“With this funding, Congress is taking an important and necessary step to protect the vote in 2020. State and local jurisdictions need this money to replace outdated election equipment, improve cybersecurity, and take other essential steps to prevent or recover from hacks and malfunctions in next year’s elections.

“But this funding should not be Congress’s only investment in election security. We must understand that cyberthreats against our elections are a long-term problem that requires long-term planning and solutions. State and local election officials need more than haphazard funding to fight that battle. They need a partnership with Congress that includes sustained and ongoing investments in election security. Every jurisdiction must be able to build election infrastructure designed to withstand today’s ever-evolving threats.

“At the same time, recipients of this federal funding must use it to increase the security of our nation’s election infrastructure, and ensure that in the face of cyberthreats, all Americans are able to vote with confidence in free and fair elections.”

While the House passed a spending bill this summer with strong accountability measures, the spending deal announced today is not as detailed. The Brennan Center recommends state and local governments use the funds to do the following: hire additional cybersecurity staff, replace paperless machines with equipment that uses paper ballots, upgrade critical infrastructure like voter registration systems, build robust resiliency plans so election jurisdictions can recover in the event of a cyberattack, and conduct post-election audits. The Brennan Center also urges Congress to use its oversight authorities to ensure the money is spent on these pressing security needs.

Brennan Center resources on election security: