Federal Dollars For Election Security in Minnesota Tied Up in Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

In March 2018, President Trump signed a federal omnibus spending bill that included $380 million for election security. From this money, Minnesota has received a grant of nearly $6.6 million in federal dollars for election security. Unlike many states, Secretary of State Simon’s office is unable to access this money without action from the state legislature. MCF included an update on this in Policy in Focus earlier this session.

The legislature included the release of approximately $1.5 million of these federal dollars in the state's supplemental omnibus budget bill. These dollars would be used to upgrade and modernize that state’s voter registration database, which was a key recommendation from the Legislative Auditor’s Report released earlier this session on voting practices in Minnesota. There is strong bipartisan support for upgrading and modernizing our election system and the Secretary of State is committed to fulfilling all of the Legislative Auditor’s recommendations.

This release of federal grant dollars was included in the large omnibus supplemental budget bill, rather than as a stand-alone bill. The Governor has threatened to veto the omnibus budget bill, creating uncertainty for the Secretary of State’s office. Secretary Simon asked lawmakers to find a safer way to get this bill to the Governor, given its critical importantance to our democracy and election integrity. This request was not granted.  The inclusion of so many items in one large omnibus budget bill means that many bipartisan and uncontroversial items, such as allowing the Secretary of State’s office to access federal funding that has already been allocated, are likely to be casualties of this legislative session.

Minnesota’s ability to access this federal grant for election security requires that the state legislative appropriate a 5% state match within two years of the state receiving the federal grant funds. If this issue is not resolved in a potential special session this year, it will be a key priority for the 2019 session.

MCF strongly supports efforts to modernize and protect our election system.

 

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