Senator Wyden and Bicameral Coalition Introduction Bill to Require States to Secure Elections!

The Protecting American Votes and Elections Act Mandates Paper Ballots and Risk-Limiting Audits in All Federal Elections

Washington, D.C. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and 12 Senate co-sponsors today introduced an expanded version of his bill to protect American elections from foreign interference by mandating hand-marked paper ballots and setting new cybersecurity standards for all federal elections. The bill provides the strongest protection for American elections of any proposal currently before Congress.

The Protecting American Votes and Elections Act of 2019 is co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., is introducing the companion bill in the House of Representatives.

The PAVE Act requires paper ballots and statistically rigorous “risk-limiting” audits for all federal elections – two measures recommended by experts in a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2018​ report on election security. Read a summary of the bill here.

“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,” 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.”

“If the 2016 and 2018 elections taught us anything, it is that our election security systems are woefully inadequate,” said Congressman Blumenauer. “The Trump administration’s response has been lackluster, foreign actors continue to attempt to infiltrate our elections, and now there are serious concerns about Trump’s willingness to accept the results of the 2020 election. Mandatory paper ballots and risk-limiting audits are imperative to maintain the American public’s confidence in our elections.”

“The PAVE Act is a robust and common sense plan to finally safeguard our elections. States have been left in the lurch, exposed to malicious meddling by foreign adversaries and struggling to keep up,” Senator Blumenthal said. “Congress should set meaningful cybersecurity standards and provide resources to help states modernize and secure their voting machines. On election day, Americans must be able to trust that their choice is fairly and accurately counted.”

“The Mueller report made it clear that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and yet we have seen no plan from the Trump administration on how to combat foreign governments from attacking future elections,” said Senator Markey. “The PAVE Act would codify commonsense practices and help ensure that our country is able to withstand any threats to our democracy. The integrity of American elections must be unquestioned and unimpeachable. Attacks on our elections are not just attacks on a party, but on the entire country.”

“We know our foreign adversaries are trying to hack into our voting systems, so it is downright irresponsible not to use existing, better, more secure alternatives,” said Senator Merkley. “Oregon has been a trail blazer in securing elections by issuing every voter a paper ballot. Congress should follow suit and implement this system nationwide to protect every American’s vote and the integrity of our democracy.”

“Americans deserve safe and secure elections that aren’t threatened by foreign adversaries. In Illinois, a state whose election database Special Counsel Mueller confirmed the Russians broke into, this investment is critical to protect our voting system,” Senator Duckworth said. “Senator Wyden’s PAVE Act, which requires paper ballots and post-election audits, is a common-sense approach to upholding the integrity of each American’s vote and strengthening our election security. In the aftermath of the special counsel’s investigation into the 2016 election, this legislation is more important than ever.”

“Elections are at the heart of our democracy. We must strengthen our election systems to limit their vulnerability to hackers and foreign interference,” said Senator Warren. “This bill takes important steps to maintain the integrity of our democracy by updating aging election infrastructure and mandating the use of paper ballots and post-election audits to protect against cyberattacks.”

“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.” 

“American intelligence officials have made it clear that we face an ongoing threat to our elections from foreign adversaries and hackers. We must take action to protect the integrity of the vote,” said Senator Baldwin.“This legislation to require paper ballots and secure our federal elections is a commonsense solution that will strengthen election security and help protect our democracy from foreign interference.”

“We need to be honest about the fact that a foreign government interfered in the 2016 election—and that if we continue to do nothing to improve our election infrastructure, we’re leaving our country vulnerable to attack once again,” said Senator Harris. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation because paper ballots are the single best way to secure our elections. Foreign governments can’t hack a piece of paper.”

Key Provisions

The new PAVE Act bans internet, WiFi and cellular connections for voting machines, and gives 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.

The bill also provides state and local governments with $500 million dollars to buy new, secure ballot scanning machines, and $250 million to buy new ballot marking devices to be used by voters with disabilities. It also permits the federal government to reimburse states the cost of conducting post-elections audits, as well as the cost of designing and printing ballots.

These measures, collectively, are necessary to fix the vulnerabilities in our election infrastructure highlighted by Russia in 2016, to secure our elections from foreign hackers and give voters confidence in election results.

Support for the Protecting American Votes and Elections Act

The PAVE Act has been endorsed by leading cybersecurity experts, voting rights groups and fair elections advocates, including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, Brennan Center for Justice, Protect Democracy, National Election Defense Coalition, Fair Fight Action and American Statistical Association.

Stacey Abrams, Founder, Fair Fight Action:

“Unfortunately, across the country and in Georgia, too many voters must depend on unreliable, hackable voting machines to try to make their voices heard. In Georgia, the governor has rejected the advice of security experts in favor of rewarding corporations with politically connected lobbyists, and he is not alone in jeopardizing our democracy. We must ensure that every citizen’s vote is protected against hackers who would thwart our constitutional rights as mute the will of the people. The PAVE Act will safeguard the votes of Americans in every state in the union, regardless of whether state elections officials find doing so politically expedient. I am proud to endorse Sen. Wyden’s legislation and bring real security to our elections.”