Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), along with 11 Senate colleagues, today introduced a new bill to protect American elections from interference. This legislation comes as Florida’s governor announced that two counties in the state were hacked during the 2016 elections. The Protecting American Votes and Elections (PAVE) Act of 2019 would take measures to fix the vulnerabilities in the nation’s federal election infrastructure and help secure American elections from hackers. This includes creating new cybersecurity standards, providing state and local governments with resources to guard against cyberattacks, and mandating paper ballots for all federal elections.
“Voting is one of the cornerstones of our democracy, and we must never allow our elections to be vulnerable to interference again,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The PAVE Act would help ensure the validity of election results by requiring a paper receipt for every vote, providing states with the resources they desperately need to upgrade their voting machines, and creating new cybersecurity standards at the voting booth. Congress has a responsibility to secure the integrity of our elections, and I am proud to join with Senator Wyden to introduce this bill that strengthens our country’s election infrastructure.”
“The Russian government interfered in American elections in 2016 and if we don’t stop them, they and other governments are going to do it again. The administration refuses to do what it takes to protect our democracy, so Congress has to step up. Our bill will give voters the confidence they need that our elections are secure,” Senator Wyden said. “The PAVE Act scraps insecure voting machines that are juicy targets for hackers and replaces them with reliable, secure hand-marked paper ballots. It gives states the funding they need to defend their election systems and puts the Department of Homeland Security in charge of setting strong security standards for every Federal election.”
There are currently no mandatory standards for election cybersecurity. The PAVE Act would give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to set, for the first time, minimum cybersecurity standards for voting machines, voter registration databases, electronic poll books used to ‘check in’ voters at polling places, and election night reporting websites. Additionally, the legislation would ban internet, WiFi, and cellular connections for voting machines.
Furthermore, the PAVE Act would ensure that state and local governments have the resources to defend against cyberattacks by foreign intelligence services. The bill would provide $500 million dollars for state and local governments to buy new, secure ballot scanning machines, and $250 million to buy new ballot marking devices to be used by voters with disabilities. The bill would permit the federal government to reimburse states the cost of conducting post-elections audits, as well as the cost of designing and printing ballots.
The PAVE Act would also require paper ballots and statistically rigorous “risk-limiting” audits for all federal elections. These two measures are recommended by experts in a 2018 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2018? report on election security and would help ensure that every vote can be subjected to a manual recount.
The Protecting American Votes and Elections Act of 2019 is also cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).