A bipartisan Senate bill to bolster election security was reportedly sidelined by the White House

Sen. James Lankford
(Image credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) abruptly canceled a vote on a bipartisan election security bill that proponents, including lead sponsors Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), had expected to sail through to a full Senate vote in October. Blunt cited a lack of support from state election officials and Republican colleagues, though the sponsors said it had ample bipartisan support to pass. On Thursday, Yahoo News reported that the bill "has been held up in the Senate at the behest of the White House," citing congressional sources.

The legislation, called the Secure Elections Act, would increase information-sharing between state and federal governments, grant security clearances to each state's top election official, create a technical advisory committee to come up with best practices to bolster cybersecurity, and, according to a summary of the legislation, "require adequate post-election auditing procedures so each election can be double-checked and verified." Notably, states would be encouraged to use voting machines with a paper record. "Paper is not antiquated," Lankford explained. "It's reliable."

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said while the Trump administration "appreciates Congress' interest in election security," the Homeland Security Department "has all the statutory authority it needs to assist state and local officials to improve the security of existing election infrastructure," adding: "Do not violate the principles of federalism — elections are the responsibility of the states and local governments." Lankford told Roll Call that "we don't expect states to protect against a foreign attack." And what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas when it comes to national elections. "Your election in Delaware affects the entire country," Lankford told Yahoo. "Your election in Florida affects the entire country."

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Some secretaries of state called the audit requirement an unfunded mandate. Klobuchar says she will try to add grants to the bill, but Blunt says he has no plans to revisit the legislation.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.