Minnesota stands alone as the only state in the nation that has not passed full funding for election security through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). This critical funding was signed into law last year to boost cybersecurity for all 50 states following concerns that foreign entities were interfering in our elections. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Minnesota was one of 21 states targeted by foreign entities in the 2016 election.
The Minnesota House passed full funding for HAVA on a strong bipartisan vote of 105-23 in February. Minnesota Senate Republicans passed a much smaller appropriation of $1.5 million of the $6.6 million available for critical cybersecurity projects. It’s troubling that there hasn’t been a clear reason why some Senators are blocking full funding for this important security measure for our state. Ensuring safe and secure elections should not be a partisan issue. The HAVA funding isn’t “spending” out of our budget; rather, this money is parked in an account, and Minnesota is the only state that has not fully used this money to make our elections safe. Delaying full funding simply doesn’t make sense.
In the first days of the 2019 session, approving full HAVA funding in Minnesota was cited as a bipartisan agreement both Democrats and Republicans could pass right away as an example of finding common ground on important legislation. Yet after ten weeks of session, Minnesota remains as the only state in the U.S. that hasn’t accepted its voting security money – and it might be awhile before it does.
The House and Senate have met several times to compromise on this legislation so we can move forward and implement important security measures, but Senate legislators refuse to cooperate. Every day that goes by without legislative approval to use this money that Congress and the president appropriated is a day that it makes it harder for us to secure our election system for 2020.
Last summer and fall, Secretary of State Steve Simon convened a bipartisan working group to make decisions on how the HAVA funds would be spent. He submitted a report to the Legislature in December but he has not heard any concerns or questions from the same senators that are now blocking these important funds.
In an attempt to move things forward, Secretary Simon re-issued his “Investing in Democracy” 20-point plan that demonstrates the importance of transparency and calls attention to the mounting need for improved voter protection in the state. But until full funding is approved, Minnesotans’ data privacy and the integrity of our state elections remain at risk. To see the full “Investing In Democracy” report, click here.
This is an issue that I’ll watch closely and will work to keep you updated on what transpires. Please reach out to me with your comments and suggestions on this issue and any others that I may be able to help you with. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4120 or by email at email@example.com. You can also mail letters or pay me a visit in the Minnesota Senate Building, Room 2233, right across the street from the Capitol.