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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.

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

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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.

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.

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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)


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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‘I look at Donald Trump I don’t see Reagan — I see George Wallace’: Former Republican Reagan official

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Wayne Grant served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army under former President Ronald Reagan. Still, when he looks at today's Republican Party, he can't help but get uncomfortable.

"When I look now at Donald Trump, I don't see Ronald Reagan, I see George Wallace," said Grant.

"For my entire adult life, I was a Republican," he explained. "Until four years ago when, for the first time ever, I voted for a Democrat for president. When I was a much younger man, I had the great honor of serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army under Ronald Reagan. You know, Ronald Reagan was a conservative right down to his core. But the man was also an idealist. He was an optimist. And those are two qualities I see none of in the current occupant of that office."

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A whopping 14 percent of new US COVID-19 cases are coming from Texas

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With the daily number of new coronavirus infections in Texas now exceeding that of most other states, experts say Texas has become a hot spot of the global pandemic and that more aggressive measures are needed to slow the virus’ spread.

Texas’ new confirmed cases of the coronavirus now make up around 14% of the U.S. total — measured by a seven-day average — a significantly higher proportion than its 9% share of the nation’s population. Since July 1, the U.S. has reported 358,027 new infections. Of those, 50,599 were in Texas.

On Tuesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported more than 10,000 new cases — representing nearly 20% of the nation’s new cases for the day. It could be a “catch-up” from the July 4 holiday, DSHS spokesman Chris Van Deusen said, noting that numbers reported Sunday and Monday were lower.

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Devastating new ad uses Ronald Reagan’s words against Trump to stunning effect

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The Lincoln Project is not the only right-wing group that has been creating attack ads slamming President Donald Trump. Another is Republican Voters Against Trump, which uses the words of President Ronald Reagan in its latest video to illustrate Trump’s failures as president.

In the ad — which lasts one minute and 40 seconds — RVAT contrast Reagan’s words with images of the U.S. during the Trump era. The message is not subtle: Under Trump, the United States is a long way from Reagan’s vision for the country.

The ad isn’t aimed at liberals and progressives, many of whom would argue that Reagan’s economic policies were bad for the American working class during the 1980s. It asks Republicans: “Has your party left you?”

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