Sen. Chris Coons led the effort to include $380 million in funding for election security grants to help states protect their election systems in the 2018 federal funding bill poised to pass Congress and become law.
Delaware's 1,600 voting machines are among the oldest in the nation and have outlived their expected lifespan.
“There is no question that our election systems came under attack in 2016 and that our future elections — starting this fall — are likely to be targeted by Russia and other actors. The question, for months, has been: What is Congress going to do about it?” said Coons. “As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I’ve been fighting for months to ensure that the federal government provides states the funding they need to protect their local election systems, and I’m thrilled that $380 million in election security grants is included in the 2018 federal funding bill. There’s more work to be done to protect our election systems, but this is an important start.”
This funding will be made available immediately to states so that they can begin to implement security improvements ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections.
The funding ensures that each state will receive a minimum of $3 million to improve election security with additional funds provided based on the population of each state. Funds will be available immediately, and states must provide a short plan for how they will use the funds and agree to a 5 percent match within two years of receiving the funds.
Within 45 days, the Election Assistance Commission will send an award letter to each state’s chief election official with information that funding is available on a non-competitive basis and provide guidance for how to immediately receive funds.
This funding must be used to replace outdated voting machines that do not provide a voter-verified paper record; implement a post-election audit system that provides a high-level of confidence in the accuracy of final vote tallies; upgrade election computer systems to address cyber vulnerabilities; facilitate cyber security training for the state chief election official's office and local election officials; implement established cybersecurity best practices for election systems; and fund other activities that will improve the security of elections for federal office.
While this funding would be specifically targeted at improving cybersecurity for the election systems, it allows for state flexibility. No two states run their elections exactly the same way. This flexibility allows state and local election officials to make determinations about what is most needed in their own jurisdictions.