Maryland voting machine. Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Secure Elections Act, which would make states run post-election audits to determine if election results reflect the way people voted, stalled in a Senate committee Wednesday night per CNN.

The big picture: The bipartisan election security bill — cosponsored by Republican Sen. James Lankford and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar — had support from several election security experts. However, Secretaries of State from around the country have been opposing the bill’s mandate on post-election audits, in particular because some view it as too strict a requirement without adequate, simultaneous funding to meet the requirement.

Between the lines: The rub is, in part, that states are supposed to run their own elections, and some argue the audits could lead to federal overreach.

  • Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt explained they didn’t have enough support from the Secretaries of State or from Republicans.

Context: Sen. Lankford has said Congress must respond to Russian threats to U.S. election infrastructure, and explained in a speech, "I do anticipate in the days ahead we will have a hearing on this issue and it will move to this floor for final passage."

What's next: All senators have been invited to a briefing on election security with the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and FBI Director Chris Wray. Sen. Blunt said he didn’t know when his committee would take the bill up again, but for now the vote is postponed. According to CNN, Sen. Klobuchar is considering adding grants to help with the cost of post-election audits.

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Over 73 million people watched the first debate on TV

Data: Nielsen; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 73.1 million people watched the first presidential debate on television on Tuesday night, according to Nielsen ratings.

Why it matters: While that's a sizable audience for any American TV program, it's down more than 13% from the record number of TV viewers who tuned in for the first debate of the 2016 election. The chaotic nature of the debate and the overall uncertainty around this year's election may have pushed some viewers away.

Senate passes bill funding government through December

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, by a vote of 84-10.

Where it stands: The legislation will avert a government shutdown before funding expires Wednesday night and before the Nov. 3 election. The House passed the same measure last week by a vote of 359-57 after House Democrats and the Trump administration agreed on the resolution.

  • Both sides agreed early in negotiations that the bill should be a "clean" continuing resolution — meaning each party would only make small changes to existing funding levels so the measure would pass through both chambers quickly, Axios' Alayna Treene reported last week. The bill now goes to President Trump for his signature.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Technology

The age of engineering life begins

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Synthetic biology startups raised some $3 billion through the first half of 2020, up from $1.9 billion for all of 2019, as the field brings the science of engineering to the art of life.

The big picture: Synthetic biologists are gradually learning how to program the code of life the way that computer experts have learned to program machines. If they can succeed — and if the public accepts their work — synthetic biology stands to fundamentally transform how we live.