The Invest in Our Democracy Act of 2019, would direct the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to provide grants in support of continuing education in election administration or cybersecurity for election officials and employees.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Susan Collins (R-ME), introduced legislation to secure our elections by providing training to state and local election officials. As adversaries continue to target our elections, the jobs of election administrators has become more complex and demanding. The Invest in Our Democracy Act of 2019, would direct the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to provide grants in support of continuing education in election administration or cybersecurity for election officials and employees.
Following the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to designate election infrastructure as critical infrastructure, state and local election officials have become our first line of defense in protecting our democracy from cyberattacks. While these officials play an important role in election security, most have not received adequate training or support. In 2014, the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration issued a report that called for more election administration training programs leading some universities to respond by establishing certificate programs in election administration. While these programs are available to election officials, there is currently no federal program to help with the cost of election administration training. Declaring that election security is national security is not enough to protect our systems from attack – we must devote resources to training our election officials.
“Our intelligence officials have made clear that our election systems continue to be a target for foreign adversaries,” said Klobuchar, Ranking Member of the Rules Committee with jurisdiction over federal elections. “Election security is national security and we must do everything in our power to protect our democracy from future attacks. That means making sure those that are on the front lines of administering elections have the resources and information they need to safeguard our election systems. The Invest in Our Democracy Act of 2019 would ensure that election officials have the training and resources to improve cyber-defenses ahead of future elections.”
“We know for certain that the Russians were relentless in their efforts to meddle in the 2016 elections,” said Collins. “In an effort to defend this cornerstone of our democracy, our bipartisan bill would help provide training and support to election officials who are on the frontlines to ensure our elections are safe and secure.”
The Invest in Our Democracy Act of 2019 would:
- Establish a grant program administered by the Election Assistance Commission to cover up to 75 percent of the cost of the yearly tuition of election officials and employees who are enrolled in an accredited certificate program for election administration or cybersecurity.
- Define eligible persons to include state or local election officials, employees of a State or local election official, or an employee of the EAC.
- Provide $1,000,000 for fiscal year 2021 and such sums necessary for each fiscal years between 2022 and 2028.
Klobuchar has been leading the fight to protect our future elections from foreign interference. In December 2017, Klobuchar and Collins introduced the Secure Elections Act with Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to strengthen election cybersecurity in America and protect against foreign interference in future elections. The Secure Elections Act streamlines cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence entities and state election agencies; provides security clearances to state election officials; and provides resources for states to upgrade election security. This bipartisan solution would bolster our election systems against future threats while protecting states’ primacy in running elections.
Earlier this month, Klobuchar reintroduced the Honest Ads Act with Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. Graham carries on the bipartisan legacy of the bill from the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ), former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and placing political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology. The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.