By Maggie Miller
Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Wednesday reintroduced legislation to designate funding to provide cybersecurity training to election officials.
The Invest in Our Democracy Act would establish a $1 million grant program to cover up to 75 percent of the costs of tuition for cybersecurity or election administration training for state and local election officials, along with their employees.
The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) would oversee the grant program, with EAC employees also eligible to receive funding for training.
The bill was originally introduced in 2019 by Klobuchar and Collins but did not advance in the Senate.
Klobuchar has been a key senator involved in spearheading election security legislation over the past several years, and before becoming chairwoman she served as the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal elections and other related issues.
“Our intelligence officials have made clear that our election systems continue to be a target for foreign adversaries,” Klobuchar said in a statement on Wednesday. “While federal and state officials have agreed that the 2020 election was ‘the most secure in American history,’ we must continue to do everything in our power to protect our democracy from the ongoing threat of foreign interference.”
"That means making sure those who are on the front lines of administering elections have the training and resources they need to safeguard our election systems,” she added. “The Invest in Our Democracy Act would ensure that election officials are prepared to improve cyber-defenses and election administration practices ahead of future elections.”
Collins is a member of a Senate Intelligence Committee, and previously introduced another piece of legislation alongside Klobuchar and other bipartisan senators to secure elections against foreign interference.
“Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, and it is vital that we safeguard this institution in the midst of the current public health and economic crisis,” Collins said in a separate statement. “In an effort to defend this cornerstone of our democracy, our bipartisan bill would help provide training and support to election officials who are dedicated to keeping our elections safe and secure.”
The legislation is being reintroduced on the heels of the 2020 general election, during which cybersecurity was a major focus of federal, state and local officials following Russian interference efforts during the 2016 presidential election.
The interference efforts in 2016 included scanning of state election infrastructure for vulnerabilities, with the hackers successfully accessing systems in at least two states. There is no evidence any votes were changed.
A month ahead of the 2020 presidential election, federal officials announced that both Russia and Iran were attempting to influence the outcome. The announcement came a month after Microsoft reported observing efforts by hackers in China, Russia and Iran to target the presidential campaigns of now former President Trump and now President Biden.
Klobuchar previously introduced a range of measures to address election security in past years to address both cybersecurity concerns and foreign election disinformation, with elections to remain a key topic of concern now that she has taken the gavel of the Senate Rules Committee.
“Some of my key priorities as the Chair of the Rules Committee – which has jurisdiction over federal elections – will be to make voting easier and more secure and to halt the flood of special interest and dark money that is drowning out the voices of the American people,” Klobuchar told The Hill in January.
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