Funding elections

Justin here. The President’s 2025 budget dropped on Monday, and it once again includes a substantial, long-term, sustained investment in funding elections. $5 billion, this time around.

I continue to think that this is right at the top of the list of critical election issues. It’s not as juicy as mapping out the endless labyrinth of hypothetical post-election shenanigans, or repeatedly saying AI — the “blockchain” of 2024. But it’s profoundly important, and (with some notable exceptions) tragically undercovered.

You want voting systems that are secure and reliable? That costs money. You want officials who know what they’re doing? That costs money. You want a communications structure able to withstand information dysfunction? That costs money. You want an electoral process that’s accessible to eligible voters? That costs money. You want results that are fast and accurate? That costs money.

Election officials have been making stone soup for way too long now, even as our expectations have expanded, county budgets have tightened, and the environment has gotten more difficult. Jurisdictions have taken philanthropic options — a last resort in the first place — off the table without stepping up to cover the gap. At this rate, we’re asking to get the elections we pay for, rather than the elections we demand and deserve.

After a few collapses, America finally decided to invest in roads, bridges, sewers, and broadband. The election system is the infrastructure of infrastructure: everything else we do in this country builds on that substrate. The President has repeatedly (FY2023 here and here, FY2024 here, FY 2025 here) tried to add the election system to the infrastructure we actually maintain. Congress has completely ignored the call. The strategy appears to be “hope it all holds up again.” Which is not actually a strategy.

Funding local election infrastructure is a profoundly bipartisan issue. Every member of Congress got their current job through the elections process, which elects Republicans in Republican areas and Democrats in Democratic areas. The bridge every member takes to get to work is the same bridge they’ve stubbornly refused to maintain. Can we please shore it up before it breaks, this time?

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