Several new election reform bills introduced ahead of 2022 Midterm Elections

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    Several new election reform bills introduced ahead of 2022 Midterm Elections

    In late July, lawmakers unveiled two new pieces of legislation – the Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act (S. 4574) and the American Confidence in Elections Act – that, if enacted, would have a direct impact on the administration of elections at the county level.

    Introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators led by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and in conjunction with the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, S. 4574 includes several provisions related to threats against election workers and election mail services. This bill would:

    • Double penalties for crimes against federally protected activities relating to voting and the conduct of elections, increase maximum penalties for individuals who willfully steal, destroy, conceal, mutilate or alter election records, and make it illegal to tamper with voting systems
    • Provide best practices guidance for state and local governments for federal election mail, create optional standardized federal ballot mail parameters and features for states, and set requirements for ballot search and certification, federal election mail processing and requires postmark on all federal ballots
    • Reauthorize the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) for five years and require EAC to conduct cybersecurity testing and certification for voting systems

    The American Confidence in Elections Act, introduced by the U.S. House Administration Committee Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and the U.S. House Administration Subcommittee on Elections Ranking Member Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), includes a separate batch of election reforms primarily at the state level. In sum, this legislation would:

    • Prohibit states from maintaining a single voter registration roll for state and federal elections if the state permits non-citizens to vote in state and local elections and penalizes these states by reducing their share of new Help America Vote Act (HAVA) authorized grant funds by 30 percent
    • Prohibit the use of federal funds by states to administer federal elections unless certain restrictions on ballot harvesting and the transmission of mail ballots are implemented
    • Place caps on the size and budget of the EAC and prohibit funds from being used to establish any additional committees and allow states to use HAVA grant funds to conduct and publish post-election audits
    • Allow compensation of election workers to be excluded from gross income, remove the federal requirement that election officials’ issue 1099 or W-2 forms to election workers, and permanently extend the CARES Act’s Employer Participation in Repayment Act of 2022 to encourage individuals to serve as poll workers through earned student loan repayments
    • Require the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to prioritize, process and deliver all election mail and require voters to provide identification if registering for the first-time by mail

    Across the nation, counties play a key role in administering safe and secure elections. County election officials work tirelessly to protect elections against data breaches, tampering, voter fraud and other security risks. Over the past few years, election officials and poll workers have experienced increased harassment and threats as they continue providing these essential services to their communities. During the NACo 2022 Annual Conference, the NACo membership adopted a policy resolution calling upon Congress to enact legislation that will impose appropriate penalties for offenses related to harassment, intimidation, threats or harm to election officials and their families.

    A further analysis of the bills is forthcoming. NACo will monitor both pieces of legislation and provide counties with relevant updates.

    In late July, lawmakers unveiled two new pieces of legislation – the Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act (S.