Running the News: McConnell put his name last week to a $ 250 million change to a pending funding bill, a sudden change from his previous stance on the government's cybersecurity election.
The bare minimum cost of securing the American electoral system is $ 2.13 billion over the next 5 years, according to an estimate from the Brennan Center at NYU Law School. Lawrence Norden, director of the electoral reform program in Brennan, told Axios that it would probably cost a similar amount every 5 years after that.
By the numbers: According to Brennan estimates, it will cost:
- $ 486 million for secure voter registration systems.
- $ 833 million for cybersecurity of state and local elections, including $ 55 million in county-level cybersecurity staffing, provided an employee for every tenth county, and $ 9.6 million for site security.
- $ 100 million for post-election audits.
This is not just a matter of voting machines: The public debate on electoral security is often falsely reduced to replacing machines without paper voting for machines with them.
- "People find it easy to wrap their heads around paper reconciliations," Norden said. "But there are many other ways attacks can be attacked that have nothing to do with vending machines. If you look at successful attacks around the world, they target voter databases and reporting systems."
Many of these costs are repeated: "The equipment is aging. Voting machines need to be replaced every 10 years," said Norden.
- Staffing expenses, web security and other expenses are repeated year round, year after year.
- "People think that on Election Day, they just go and cast a ballot," said Earl Matthews, chief strategy officer at security firm Verodin and a retired General Assembly air defense. "But that process actually began many months earlier."
The federal government does not have to bear the entire cost of cyber security. In fact, most states prefer a certain degree of autonomy when running elections.
- But states cannot realistically fight nations without a little more help.
- "The federal government has a responsibility to share," said Christopher Deluzio, director of policy at the University of Pittsburgh's cyber center, who has often written about the cost of securing elections.
Policy: A GOP aide emphasized to Axios that the total amount of security funding granted to the states since 2018, with $ 250 million, exceeded $ 600 million.
- An earlier $ 380 million, already accounted for in the Brennan estimate, wasn't brand new – it was money designated for granting electoral systems legislation passed after the hanging Chad debacle in Florida in the 2000 election .
- The House has sent more substantive plans to McConnell's Senate. For the People Act, the first bill passed by the House this session, allocated nearly $ 1.6 billion for electoral security – including $ 1.5 billion for equipment and $ 55 million for "bug bounty" programs.
The point: $ 250 million is a down payment on security, not the whole bill.