WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration with oversight over federal elections, led a letter with 32 of her colleagues to President Biden urging it to include $5 billion for election security grants in the upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget. These grants would help state and local governments improve the administration and security of federal elections. A recent report found that this level of funding is needed for effective election administration and security.
“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, and we know that you share our commitment to ensuring our elections are well funded so that all Americans can make their voices heard at the ballot box,” the senators wrote. “While past funding has been critical, we must continue to help both state and local election officials modernize their voting equipment, improve the administration of elections, and strengthen cybersecurity for election systems.”
In addition to Klobuchar, the letter was signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tina Smith (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).
Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to improve the administration and security of federal elections, including the need for basic national standards.
Last fall she introduced the Freedom to Vote Act with several of her colleagues, which included provisions to protect and modernize election systems. All Senate Democrats cosponsored the legislation and voted last month to advance the bill in the Senate. Additionally, in February 2021, Klobuchar led 19 colleagues in urging the Biden administration to take executive action to strengthen our democracy. In March 2021, President Biden signed an executive order to increase access to voter registration services and enable greater participation in our democracy.
Klobuchar introduced the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act in 2019, which would increase security requirements for voting systems and provide grants for states to modernize election systems. In 2017, Klobuchar and Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced the Secure Elections Act with then-Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to strengthen election cybersecurity by streamlining information-sharing between federal intelligence entities and state election agencies, and providing resources for states to upgrade election security.
Klobuchar also spearheaded successful efforts to include election security funding within the CARES Act emergency coronavirus relief package. She further secured funding to improve election administration and infrastructure in the 2020 and 2018 omnibus packages.
The full text of the letter is available HERE and below:
Dear Mr. President:
We write to request that you include $5 billion in election security grants in your Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to distribute to states and local governments for improvements to the administration of federal elections. Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, and we know that you share our commitment to ensuring our elections are well funded so that all Americans can make their voices heard at the ballot box.
During the 2020 general election, nearly 160 million Americans voted – more than ever before, in an election that the Department of Homeland Security called the “most secure in American history.” This was possible with help from the election security grants Congress provided in FYs 2018 and 2020, as well as emergency funding through the CARES Act in 2020, which provided election officials with resources to take on the additional obstacles of administering safe and secure elections during the coronavirus pandemic.
While past funding has been critical, we must continue to help both state and local election officials modernize their voting equipment, improve the administration of elections, and strengthen cybersecurity for election systems. Six states still widely use voting systems that do not produce paper ballots. The EAC also recently approved an updated version of the voluntary voting system guidelines that will lead to investments in more modern voting systems. In addition, election officials are facing a surge in threats and harassment that have left many worried for their safety, raising concerns about the ability of state and local governments to retain and recruit officials, workers, and volunteers for future elections.
One analysis published last December found that over the next decade approximately $50 billion would be needed for election administration and security. Based on this analysis, a group of Secretaries of State and Chief Election Officials have also requested that the federal government provide $5 billion in election grants for FY 2023.
In addition to annual appropriations, we remain committed to advancing legislation that will provide election officials a reliable stream of funding to make ongoing improvements to election administration. While funding is not a substitute for Congress passing comprehensive legislation to protect the freedom to vote and stop the ongoing attacks on our democracy, we must ensure that state and local election officials continue to receive the resources needed to administer, improve, and modernize our elections.
Thank you for your attention to this critical issue. We look forward to continuing to work with you to strengthen our democracy.