The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act enacted in March 2020–which feels like an eternity ago–included congressional approval of $400 million in “Election Security Grants.” The Election Assistance Commission made quick work of distributing that money to states.
The financial strains of administering an election during a pandemic may change in the years ahead, but election systems infrastructure–sharpening cybersecurity, updating aging voting machines, transitioning to paper ballots, creating risk-limiting audit procedures, improving training for election officials, making precincts accessible, constructing secure facilities for retention of paper ballots, the list goes on–is always in need of some extra cash. Senator Amy Klobuchar hinted that the then-pending infrastructure bill might include election systems infrastructure.
No such luck. In a trillion dollar deal, there’s nothing for election systems infrastructure. (From my read, anyway–or, more appropriately, my word search of several key terms and phrases through 2702 pages.) The closest it comes is that the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information is tasked with “provid[ing] technical and other assistance to eligible entities . . . regarding cybersecurity resources and programs available through Federal agencies, including the Election Assistance Commission, [and] the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency . . . .”
I’m sure everyone is fighting for their slice of the pie, and there are of course many worthy targets in the bill–roads, water, Internet access, rail, energy grid, etc. But on the heels of all the concerns out of the 2020 election, I’m mildly surprised there’s nothing here. We’ll wait to see how the amendment process works out, or if it’s all left as part of some other voting package in Congress.