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14 states have requested Congress' election security upgrades funding

Illustration of scissors cutting a polling both drape.
Illustratoin: Sarah Grillo/Axios

14 states have requested funding for election security upgrades from the $380 million pool that Congress set aside in March, according to the Election Assistance Commission Chairman Tom Hicks. Hicks expects at least 20 to request by next week and about 40 to request by mid-June.

What it means: Although a fraction of states have applied to receive funds, it doesn't mean the others won't be applying for funding as well. "The money is available to all the states. They don’t need to apply prior to using it," a spokesperson for the Committee on House Administration Democrats tells Axios. While some requests have funneled in, $380 million is not enough to upgrade security in elections entirely in each state.

The funding requested by the first 11 states to request, per a document obtained by Axios:

    • $7.9-34.6 million: Washington, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts
    • $5.2-7.8 million: Oregon, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky
    • $3.1-5.1 million: Arkansas, West Virginia
    • $600K-$3.0 million: Montana

One big problem: The cost of upgrading a portion of election infrastructure, direct recording electronic machines (DREs) would be about $500 million if not more, Larry Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, tells Axios. The President of Verified Voting, Marian Schneider, adds "it’s not enough for the states who need to replace their voting machines."

Context: $380 million is a much lower number than what lawmakers wanted. The Election Security Act, for example, proposed $1 billion in grants for updating election systems, and congress set aside $4 billion in 2002.

How the funds fall short: It's about how it's divvied up.

  • Each state is guaranteed a minimum payment from the omnibus carve-out. The funds are divided using a formula in the HAVA, based on the number of registered voters in each state from the 2010 census.
  • States can apply for reimbursement even if their security is fairly well equipped.

The result: Several states with security gaps will only be able to meet a fraction of the updates they need to fully bolster their security, the Brennan Center estimates.

  1. New Jersey: 15-24% ($40.4-$63.5 million)
  2. Louisiana: 15-24% ($24.9-$39.1 million)
  3. Pennsylvania: 17-27% ($50.4-$79.1 million)
  4. Indiana: 21-33% ($22.7-$35.6 million)
  5. Georgia: 23-36% ($28.8-$45.2 million)

The takeaway: "The current allocation...is going to have to be supplemented with other funding resources, either from the federal government or local government," Schneider says.

Editor's note: This has been updated to reflect the growing list of states that have requested from 11 to 14.