Senate Rules Panel Postpones Elections Bill Markup; More Support Sought

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With just 75 days to go until the 2018 midterm elections and amid mounting pressure for legislative action to boost election security, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration postponed today’s scheduled business meeting on the Secure Elections Act, which would help state and local governments apply for Federal grants to modernize their election systems and receive relevant cyber threat information.

MeriTalk learned today from a Senate source that the meeting was postponed due to ongoing contention over various details of the bill, with auditing requirement being one of the more prominent issues.

On a press call earlier this week, for instance, Jim Condos, Vermont’s secretary of state and president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, expressed concerns with auditing requirements.

“There appears to be some additional language that essentially requires not just state-level post-election audits, but post-election audits all the way down to the local election site,” Condos said. “Post-election audits are a good thing. I think that to limit it to a certain type and then require all jurisdictions to do it can be problematic.” He said that he couldn’t support what he considered an “unfunded mandate.”

A Senate source said the Rules Committee wants to advance a bipartisan bill to the Senate floor and postponed today’s meeting so additional majority support could be secured.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has led the charge on the legislation and seemed to dismiss Condos’ criticism during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

“People can throw daggers easily, but we’re to the point where we can no longer wait,” said Klobuchar, ranking member of the Rules and Administration Committee. “We’ve spent days and days with local secretaries of state. Some of them just aren’t going to like that we are requiring these backup paper ballots if they get federal money and these audits. I just don’t know what else we can do, and the members are going to have to rise above that in my mind or we’re never going to move forward.”

The Senate source said the Rules Committee held a senators-only briefing today on election security.

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