Election securityProtecting American Votes and Elections Act of 2019

Published 17 May 2019

The PAVE Act requires paper ballots and statistically rigorous “risk-limiting” audits for all federal elections – two measures recommended by experts in a National Academies of Sciences 2018 report. Election security experts who focus on the engineering, computing, and statistical aspects of election security expressed their support for PAVE. “Paper ballots and risk limiting audits are the only known viable approaches for ensuring that software and hardware attacks cannot alter election results,” said one expert. “As the threats to our elections increasingly includes sophisticated foreign adversaries, it is especially important that these simple, proven safeguards be universally implemented.”

The PAVE Act, introduced Wednesday by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and fourteen other cosponsors, aims to protect American elections from foreign interference by mandating hand-marked paper ballots and setting new cybersecurity standards for all federal elections. The bill provides the strongest protection for American elections of any proposal currently before Congress.

The PAVE Act requires paper ballots and statistically rigorous “risk-limiting” audits for all federal elections – two measures recommended by experts in a National Academies of Sciences 2018 report.

“The Russian government interfered in American elections in 2016 and if we don’t stop them, they and other governments are going to do it again. The administration refuses to do what it takes to protect our democracy, so Congress has to step up. Our bill will give voters the confidence they need that our elections are secure,” Wyden said. “The PAVE Act scraps insecure voting machines that are juicy targets for hackers and replaces them with reliable, secure hand-marked paper ballots. It gives states the funding they need to defend their election systems and puts the Department of Homeland Security in charge of setting strong security standards for every federal election.”

Here is a summary of the bill:

Protecting American Votes and Elections Act of 2019 (S. ___)
The 2016 elections highlighted long-standing security flaws in America’s election infrastructure. This bill secures Federal elections from foreign meddling by mandating paper ballots and routine, post-election “risk-limiting” audits. It gives DHS the power to set mandatory security standards for voting machines, voter registration databases, and election results websites used in Federal elections. The bill authorizes a $500 million one-time grant program to pay for states to buy new ballot scanning machines, which are needed to count paper ballots. Under this bill, the federal government will also reimburse states for the cost of designing and printing paper ballots and for conducting risk-limiting audits. The bill also protects the confidentiality of votes cast by people with disabilities, by providing states $250 million to buy new ballot marking machines.