Conservative activists pressure McConnell on election security

Activists want to upgrade outdated voting machines

By Kevin Collier, CNN
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Voting machines at a polling station on Election Day on November 8, 2016.

(CNN) - Conservative activists are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to support funding to upgrade voting machines across the country that critics argue are out of date and insecure.

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and Freedomworks President Adam Brandon issued a call Wednesday for Congress to allocate additional money for election equipment upgrades and to mandate that elections use paper ballots that can be used for an independent audit.

"We benefit from more secure elections. We benefit from being able to double-check," Norquist told CNN ahead of a news conference announcing his position. "I expect to be winning elections for the next 20 years and I don't want the Democrats to explain that every single one of those was stolen. So let's make it ironclad."

Election security advocates have long argued that the issue shouldn't be partisan. But In the wake of President Donald Trump's public refusals to acknowledge the US intelligence community's findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election on his behalf, it's largely been Democrats who have argued that voting machines need upgrading and need to be audited on paper ballots and that states need cybersecurity staff on call.

Norquist said he supports a version of the Secure Elections Act, a bipartisan bill introduced last year by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, though it's yet to be reintroduced this year. While generally considered less stringent than other election security bills, the Secure Elections Act would motivate states to replace all-digital voting machines by appropriating funds for replacements only if the money would go toward equipment that relies on paper ballots.

Democrats largely place the blame on McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who has refused to pick up various election security bills that have passed the Democrat-led House. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has said Democrats will push for an amendment to boost election security funding at a markup of several bills in the Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

McConnell's office didn't respond to a request for comment.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly characterize how Democrats plan to advocate for an amendment to increase election security funding.

CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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