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US Democrats push $1 billion bill for election security

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Democrats introduced legislation on Wednesday that would provide more than $1 billion to boost cyber security of U.S. voting systems, and Vice President Mike Pence defended the administration’s efforts to protect polls from hackers.

The measure followed warnings on Tuesday from U.S. intelligence officials that midterm races in November are likely to see renewed meddling from Russia and possibly other foreign adversaries.

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“We cannot let the Russians laugh about and take joy in the success they had in the last election,” Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, told a news conference. “Their goal is to undermine democracy.”

Lawmakers have introduced several bills, some with bipartisan support, to bolster election security since the 2016 polls in which Republican Donald Trump was elected president. None have become law.

The new bill is the most comprehensive to date and is aimed at bolstering protection for the midterms and subsequent elections. It has no Republican co-sponsors in the House, which the party controls, and is therefore unlikely to succeed.

Pence, speaking at an event hosted by the online news site Axios, said Americans could trust the 2016 election results and that it was an “ongoing effort” of Trump’s administration to protect election infrastructure.

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He also incorrectly said it was the “universal conclusion” among intelligence agencies that Moscow’s efforts had no impact on the 2016 election outcome.

The agencies said in a January 2017 report that no assessment was made about the impact of Russian meddling but that Russia used hacking and propaganda to try to tilt the election in Trump’s favor. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied this.

A Pence representative did not respond immediately to a request to clarify the discrepancy between Pence’s comments and the intelligence assessment.

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The Democrats’ Election Security Act would allocate $1 billion in grants, overseen by the U.S. Election Commission, this year to help states buy voting machines that incorporate backup paper ballots, hire security staff and conduct risk assessments.

It would provide up to an additional $175 million in 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025, for a total of about $1.75 billion.

The measure would create a $20 million grant program for states to perform post-election audits. It would also require the Department of Homeland Security to expedite security clearances for state election officials and direct the president to develop a strategy to guard U.S. institutions, including elections, from cyber attacks and influence operations.

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The department said last year 21 states had experienced initial probing of their systems from Russian hackers and a small number of networks were compromised.

Virtually all 50 states have taken steps since the 2016 election to purchase more secure equipment, expand the use of paper ballots, improve cyber training or seek federal assistance, according to groups that track election security.

However, Congress has not provided more money or support and lawmakers have failed to allocate $400 million in leftover election improvement funds pledged 16 years ago.

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By Dustin Volz

(Reporting by Dustin Volz; additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Jim Finkle, Ian Simpson and Paul Tait)

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Bill Maher presents ’25 things you don’t know about Stephen Miller’ on Real Time

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The host of HBO's "Real Time" presented "25 things you don’t know about Stephen Miller" on Friday.

"In high school, I was voted 'Most Likely to Comb My Mummified Mother's Hair,'" was one item.

"I think tacos are stealing jobs from hamburgers," was another.

"I'm a Cancer. I don't know my astrological sign," was a third.

"The worst part about my car smelling like wet dogs, is that I don't own dogs," was a fourth.

Watch:

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Bill Maher dances on David Koch’s grave: ‘I’m glad he’s dead and I hope the end was painful’

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HBO "Real Time" host Bill Maher celebrated the death of right-wing billionaire David Koch, who died of prostate cancer.

"I guess I'm going to have to reevaluate my low opinion of prostate cancer," Maher said.

"Condolences poured in from all the politicians he owned and mourners are being asked, in lieu of flowers, to just leave their car engine running," he said.

"I know these seem like harsh words and harsh jokes, and I'm sure I will be condemned for them on Fox News, which will portray Mr. Koch as a principled libertarian who believed in the free market," Maher said. "He and his brother have done more than anybody to fund climate science deniers -- for decades."

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HBO’s Bill Maher slams Trump’s White House lawn press conferences: ‘Brought to you by Adderall’

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HBO's "Real Time" host Bill Maher ripped Donald Trump on Friday.

"I've had so many sh*tty weeks, but this was a sh*tty week, I'm telling you," Maher said.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) called for a boycott of Maher's show this week.

"The one bright spot I could find, Trump finally found some white people to fight with. Denmark. He's fighting with Denmark, because, you know this, he's been wanting to buy Greenland

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