Foreign adversaries and domestic dirty tricksters can secretly hack our nation’s electronic voting systems. That’s why information security experts agree we must go back to basics: paper ballots. We also need “risk-limiting audits,” meaning mandatory post-election review of a sample of the paper ballots, to ensure the election-night “official” results are correct. EFF has long sought these reforms.

A new federal bill is a step in the right direction: H.R. 2660, the Election Security Act. It was introduced on May 10 by Rep. Bennie Thompson, Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Chair of the House Administration Committee; and Rep. John Sarbanes, Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force.

This bill would help secure our democracy from digital attack in the following ways:

  • It requires paper ballots in all federal elections. In any post-election dispute, these paper ballots are the official expression of voter intent. Each voter may choose whether to mark their paper ballot by hand, or by using a device that marks paper ballots in a manner that is easy for the voter to read.
  • It authorizes expenditure of $1 billion in the coming year to pay for the transition to paper ballot voting systems, and an additional $700 million over the next six years.
  • It authorizes expenditure of $20 million to support risk-limiting audits.
  • It authorizes expenditure of $180 million over nine years to improve the security of election infrastructure.
  • It authorizes $5 million for research to make voting systems more accessible for people with disabilities.
  • It requires the creation of cybersecurity standards for voting systems
  • It creates a “bug bounty” program for voting systems.

This is a good start. The bill would be even stronger if it adopted key parts of another election security bill, introduced last week by Sen. Wyden with 14 Senate co-sponsors. As EFF recently wrote, that bill would not only require paper ballots and help pay for paper ballots and tabulation machines, it would also require risk-limiting audits, ban the connection of voting machines to the internet, and empower ordinary voters with a private right of action to enforce new election security rules.

Congress must act now to secure our voting systems, before the next federal elections. We thank both Rep. Thompson and Sen. Wyden for leading the way.

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