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A man votes at a polling place at a high school in McLean, Virginia. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP / Getty Images

Sen. James Lankford introduced a bill Thursday that could help prevent foreign tampering in U.S. elections and strengthen election cybersecurity by spending $386 million to replace outdated or vulnerable electronic voting machines. The Secure Elections Act is backed by Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Susan Collins and Martin Heinrich.

Why it matters: Primaries for the next federal election start as early as March. As Klobuchar — the top Democrat on the Rules Committee with jurisdiction over federal elections — put it: it's about securing the "freedom to choose our leaders and know with full confidence that those leaders were chosen in free and fair elections."

Vulnerable machines: The intelligence community concluded in January that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Many states use old machines that can be easily hacked, eroding the integrity of elections and, in some cases, making a recount virtually impossible. For example, Virginia found that machines in about 22 localities were at risk of tampering in the way they recorded votes.

What the bill would do: In addition to providing grants to states, it aims to streamline the process of information sharing between state election agencies and the federal intelligence community.

  • The bill will also provide a set of voluntary cybersecurity guidelines for election systems, as well as security clearances to state election officials.
  • It would also create a "bug bounty" program to encourage those with knowledge about hacking to identify vulnerabilities in election systems.

Go deeper

Wall Street braces for more turbulence ahead of Election Day

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Wall Street is digging in for a potentially rocky period as Election Day gets closer.

Why it matters: Investors are facing a "three-headed monster," Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets, tells Axios — a worsening pandemic, an economic stimulus package in limbo, and an imminent election.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

How Biden might tackle the Iran deal

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Four more years of President Trump would almost certainly kill the Iran nuclear deal — but the election of Joe Biden wouldn’t necessarily save it.

The big picture: Rescuing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is near the top of Biden's foreign policy priority list. He says he'd re-enter the deal once Iran returns to compliance, and use it as the basis on which to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting deal with Iran.

Kamala Harris, the new left's insider

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images     

Progressive leaders see Sen. Kamala Harris, if she's elected vice president, as their conduit to a post-Biden Democratic Party where the power will be in younger, more diverse and more liberal hands.

  • Why it matters: The party's rising left sees Harris as the best hope for penetrating Joe Biden's older, largely white inner circle.

If Biden wins, Harris will become the first woman, first Black American and first Indian American to serve as a U.S. vice president — and would instantly be seen as the first in line for the presidency should Biden decide against seeking a second term.