Biden’s $10 Billion Election Grants Plan Hits GOP Speedbump (1)

  • Amount was included in fiscal 2023 budget released Monday
  • GOP wants “full accounting” of funds previously provided

(Updated with comments from Sen. Roy Blunt in fourth paragraph)

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A White House budget request for $10 billion in federal election grants over the next decade faces resistance from Republicans who are demanding more accountability for past funding.

Rep. Rodney Davis (Ill.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, which oversees election legislation, said it’s important to support state and local election administrators. But he called for a “full accounting” of what happened to previously approved federal grant funding, noting that only about half of more than $800 million in election security funds provided since 2018 was spent by the states.

“Throwing billions at the EAC without increased transparency in the grants process is not being good stewards of taxpayer dollars and does not make our elections more secure,” Davis said, referring to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the top Republican on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, said he doesn’t support the Biden administration’s budget but would work to make sure election needs are met. “Ensuring that state and local election officials have the resources they need to carry out fair, secure, and accessible elections has been, and should continue to be, a bipartisan priority,” Blunt said.

According to the budget request, the new grant money would be distributed annually to each state by the commission and used for upgrades to registration databases, voting systems, and physical structures; to support recruitment, training, and retention of election workers; to improve physical and cyber security; and to improve voters’ access to reliable elections.

Another proposal in the budget for “Election Innovation Grants” would allow states and localities to compete for an additional $250 million in new federal money to pay for special projects.

The ask comes as former President Donald Trump continues to say with no evidence that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, and more than a year after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol as Congress counted the electoral votes.

Photographer: Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg
Voters stand in line to cast ballots at a polling location during the Georgia Senate runoff elections in Atlanta on Jan. 5, 2021.

Democrats support the budget request and said the federal government should do more.

“House Democrats have consistently advocated for a substantial federal investment in our elections infrastructure,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, said. She added that it was “similarly imperative” for Congress to pass legislation setting standards to protect voting rights.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chairwoman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, said she led a group of 32 Senate Democrats in sending a letter to President Joe Biden in February requesting the additional election grant funding.

Dedicated Funding Stream

EAC Chairman Thomas Hicks said in an interview earlier this month that states have told him they’d prefer to have “some sort of dedicated funding stream,” allowing them to plan to upgrade their voting systems over a longer term, rather than quickly using whatever money Congress provides in a given year.

Federal grant money could be used by states to hire new election officials and poll workers, as well as help buy a new generation of secure voting systems after the EAC last year approved updated voting system guidelines. No new voting systems have yet been certified to meet these standards, Hicks said, but voting machine companies and other vendors are working on them.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bloombergindustry.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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