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Pelosi: 'Nothing Spoke More Eloquently' About 'Integrity' of Paper Ballots Than Florida 2000

WASHINGTON – A group of Democrats are recommending the GOP-led House of Representatives appropriate money “immediately” for states to upgrade their “aging” Information Technology (IT) infrastructure to secure the midterm elections from foreign interference.

Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), sponsor of the Election Security Act, said the total amount needed for election security is $1.8 billion.

“We have $1 billion to deal solely with the issuance of paper ballots, but overall we’re talking about $1.8 billion, which is the total amount, but that’s to be spent over a period of time doing various things. We have to do training, we have to test our systems, we have to do the audits – all those things are proposed,” Thompson said at a press conference last month announcing the Election Security Task Force’s final report.

“We can’t run the system, but we spent on HAVA [Help America Vote Act of 2002] about $3.6 billion when we created that. Our challenge now is to put some structure to the investment. HAVA was a good first start. Now, what we have is to put the systems in place. We did not get the systems required for the enemy we face now and that’s why we are coming forward with this,” he added.

According to an outline of Thompson’s bill, “election officials can use this grant provided to replace aging voting machines with voter-marked paper ballot voting systems. Additionally, states can use these grants to help cover the costs of hiring IT staff, cybersecurity training, security and risk vulnerability assessments, and other steps to secure election infrastructure.”

Thompson said it’s difficult in the current environment of technological advances to “push people to go back to the paper ballot.”

“But we think for validation purposes, for auditing, there’s nothing like the paper ballot,” he said. “Now we can count it on a scan or something, but ultimately if there’s a question about the integrity of the ballot and other things, there’s nothing like the physical document.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed with Thompson. “A paper ballot has always been to us the sign of integrity in an election and nothing spoke more eloquently to that than in Florida in 2000,” she said.

Thompson said the Democratic lawmakers on the task force would like to see the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) manage the nation’s election strategy.

“We’re trying to create a national strategy… right now we have no strategy,” he said. “We propose a commission to manage it overtime to make sure we stay current.”

The task force’s report recommends expanding the EAC.

“Since 2011, Republicans have made several attempts to eliminate the EAC. In June 2011, a bill to terminate the Commission reached the House floor, but failed to gain enough votes to pass under suspension of the rules,” the report read. “Instead of attempting to terminate the agency, the president should nominate and the Senate should confirm a fourth commissioner, and Congress should work to provide the EAC with more resources so it can provide more robust assistance to states on election security issues.”