April 24, 2019

Ranking Member Klobuchar Klobuchar Leads Letter with 31 Senators Urging Increase in Funding for the Election Assistance Commission

The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with assisting election officials to provide accessible, secure, and accurate elections

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over elections, led a letter with 31 Democratic senators urging the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government to increase funding for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Established by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the EAC is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring accessible, secure, and accurate elections. Since its creation, the EAC has provided essential assistance to state and local election officials, set voting standards, certified voting equipment, and administered the country's most comprehensive election survey, the Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS). In the letter, the senators asked that funding for the EAC, which faces a proposed cut of $855,000 in the President’s FY20 budget when moving costs are accounted for, return to the Fiscal Year 2009 level, including funding for agency relocation and funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to provide assistance with updates to the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). Earlier this month, Klobuchar also sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government urging them to include an additional $250,000,000 in grant funding for the EAC to distribute to states to carry out election infrastructure improvements.

“This proposed funding cut comes right before a presidential election and at a time when our intelligence officials continue to warn that our elections are under attack. The federal government only has one agency whose sole mission is to help administer elections and we should be increasing their funding, not cutting it. Any further budget constraints could limit the EAC's ability to fulfill its crucial mission, and without an increase in funds, the EAC will not be as effective as possible in its work with the Department of Homeland Security and state election officials to improve the security of our election systems.”

Klobuchar has led the fight to protect our elections. After the 2016 election, Klobuchar secured $380 million in federal funding to help states purchase new voting machines, improve election auditing, provide cybersecurity training, and implement cybersecurity best practices to prevent future attacks. In March 2018, Klobuchar and Senator Lankford (R-OK) introduced the Secure Elections Act with Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), 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; promotes the use of paper ballots and post-election audits; and provides resources for states to strengthen our election infrastructure. The bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Cyber Subcommittee, and Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Angus King (I-ME).

In October 2017, Klobuchar and Warner introduced the Honest Ads Act with the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. 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.

Earlier this month, Klobuchar sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) urging them to work with the businesses and state election officials to establish a task force to combat the spread of misinformation. In March, she sent a letter to the country’s three largest election system vendors with questions to help inform the best way to move forward to strengthen the security of our voting machines.

The full letter text can be found below and here:

Dear Chairman Kennedy and Ranking Member Coons,

As you consider funding for appropriations for Fiscal Year 2020, we respectfully urge you to fund the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) at the FY09 level of $17,959,000, which includes $2,500,000 for agency relocation and funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to provide assistance with updates to the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). We are requesting a return to the FY09 level for three key reasons:

  1. For first time since 2009, all four Commission seats are filled. Salaries and travel budgets for the newly appointed Commissioners, coupled with the increased travel necessary for all Commissioners during an election year, will require an increase in funds for the EAC.
  1. New cyber threats against our election systems mean that the EAC needs additional funds to ensure that it is providing adequate support to state and local election administrators. Additional funds should be provided in order to bring on employees with cyber expertise and to hire support staff for Commissioners. Additionally, the EAC is in the process of developing VVSG 2.0, an essential update that will be used to improve cybersecurity specifications and requirements against which voting systems are tested. It is critical that the EAC have the resources it needs to swiftly complete the VVSG updates.
  1. As the 2020 presidential election approaches, the EAC will need additional funds to ensure that its IT infrastructure and support systems are ready to provide assistance to election officials and to improve the administration of elections ahead of November 2020. The EAC will also conduct its biennial Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) in 2020, which is the most comprehensive nationwide data on election administration.

Established by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the EAC is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring accessible, secure, and accurate elections. Since its creation, the EAC has provided essential assistance to state and local election officials by sharing best practices and election materials, which many state and local jurisdictions would not otherwise have. Additionally, the EAC sets voting standards, certifies voting equipment, and administers the country's most comprehensive election survey, the Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS), every two years. The EAVS tracks voter registration, military voting, provisional ballots, and absentee voting. This provides a basis for election administrators to change election administration policy to better suit the needs of voters.

Recently, the EAC has proven to be a significant resource for our government agencies and state election officials as they face the increased challenges of protecting the integrity of elections. At its current funding level, the EAC is providing these important services for less than $.04 per American per year. Under the President’s FY20 budget, the EAC's operational funding budget would be cut by $855,000. This proposed funding cut comes right before a presidential election, and at a time when our intelligence officials continue to warn that our elections are under attack. The federal government only has one agency whose sole mission is to help administer elections and we should be increasing their funding, not cutting it. Any further budget constraints could limit the EAC's ability to fulfill its crucial mission, and without an increase in funds, the EAC will not be as effective as possible in its work with the Department of Homeland Security and state election officials to improve the security of our election systems.

Today, more than at any other time in our nation's history, election officials face unique challenges that require access to federal guidance and support. As we approach the 2020 elections, we must ensure that the EAC has the resources to provide critical guidance and assistance to ensure that every eligible American can cast a ballot and that our elections are secure.

Thank you for considering this request.

Sincerely,

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