WASHINGTON, DC – Today, during consideration of an Appropriations bill, Senate Republicans blocked an amendment backed by Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) to provide $250 million for states to harden their voting systems against cyber interference. 

The amendment was supported by 50 Senators and opposed by 47, but Republican leaders insisted on a 60 vote threshold, so the amendment was not agreed to.

These grants could have provided states additional and much-needed resources to update voting equipment and secure election systems ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

“Fair, honest elections are the bedrock of our democracy.  Despite the fact that a majority of Senators supported this additional election security funding, and despite warnings from U.S. intelligence that hostile foreign powers are stepping up cyber attacks on our voting systems, the Trump Administration refuses to take this threat as seriously as it should.  Congress needs to step up and help states do more to safeguard our elections.  Today, the Senate came up short, but I will continue to press this issue,” said Senator Reed.

After the U.S. intelligence community’s unanimous assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, Congress came together and appropriated $380 million dollars for State Election Security Grants in the fiscal year 2018 Omnibus.  As a result, Rhode Island received $3 million to help the state secure election equipment, defend voting systems from cyberattacks, and improve election security.

Underscoring the need for these funds, 21 state attorneys general, including Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, urged Congress in a letter last week to provide more funding to help states meet election security needs, writing: “More funding is essential to adequately equip states with the financial resources we need to safeguard our democracy and protect the data of voting members in our states.”

Making the need for action even more urgent, Facebook announced this week that it has identified an ongoing, coordinated campaign to influence American politics ahead of the 2018 midterms. 

In addition to Leahy and Reed, the Senate amendment was cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

Only one Republican Senator, Bob Corker (R-TN), joined all Democratic and Independent Senators in supporting the amendment.