The House Science Committee voted to approve H.R. 4990, the Election Technology Research Act of 2019, on Nov. 14.

The bipartisan legislation – co-sponsored by Reps. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas., Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., and Troy Balderson, R-Ohio – would establish an Elections Systems Center of Excellence (CoE). The CoE would be supervised by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). It would be tasked with enabling cooperation between Federal agencies, state and local governments, and academia to “promote the security and modernization of voting systems.”

“Election security is a bipartisan concern, and our committee is working together to address vulnerabilities with our voting systems,” said Rep. Sherrill, who heads the House Science Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. “Our democracy only works if all eligible citizens can participate in elections and be confident that their ballots have been accurately cast and counted. The Election Technology Research Act of 2019 will help to ensure that the technical underpinnings of our election architecture are solid,” she said.

A release from Sherrill’s office said that the bill will:

  • “Authorize research activities at NIST on cybersecurity, privacy, auditing, and other important areas of research related to the security and integrity of elections;
  • Establish an Elections Systems Center of Excellence at NIST to foster collaborations between NIST, universities, state and local governments, and private stakeholders;
  • Authorize new research grants for elections systems research and education at NSF;
  • Direct NIST to carry out specific tasks supporting secure elections, including providing technical assistance to state and local election officials on implementation of cybersecurity and privacy standards;
  • Require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to assess the impact of NIST’s activities; and
  • Amend the Help America Vote Act definition of ‘voting systems’ to include not just the voting machines but also electronic poll books and voter registration systems.”

The House bill doesn’t currently appear to have a companion bill in the Senate.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.