The money would go to cities and counties to modernize outdated equipment and upgrade cybersecurity.
Thirty-three Democratic senators on Wednesday urged President Biden to include $5 billion for grants to state and local governments to improve election security in his budget proposal for next year.
“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,” wrote the senators led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who chairs the Senate rules and administration committee, which has oversight over federal elections.
“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,” the letter said in urging Biden to include the funding in his upcoming fiscal year 2023 budget proposal.
Despite the inclusion of $400 million in the CARES Act for election administration in 2020, spending on election administration is among the lowest-funded public services in the nation, similar to the amount spent to run parking facilities, according to a report by the MIT Election Data + Science Lab and the American Enterprise Institute.
According to a report by the Election Infrastructure Initiative, elections are managed by more than 10,000 jurisdictions, nearly all of them city or county governments. Funding by the local governments for costs like preventing cyberattacks and maintaining elections equipment “has not kept up with the deep and accelerating needs posed by cybersecurity threats, physical threats to election staff, and the growing need to provide voting options across different modalities, including in-person on election day, mail voting, and early voting.”
The report estimated that $50 billion in federal funds is needed over the next decade for a variety of needs, including patching cybersecurity vulnerabilities, replacing outdated voting machines, upgrading voter registration databases and websites, and buying equipment including ballot sorters, envelope openers and stuffers and ballot verification technology.
Election officials are dealing with more than technology, equipment and staffing issues. With this year’s election season right around the corner, officials are warning that a shortage of paper for ballots, envelopes and other voting materials could create problems.