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Investment in election infrastructure overdue

Despite passing a generous 2023 federal budget of $1.7 trillion, Democrats somehow managed to neglect our national election infrastructure, safety, and security. Now Republicans have the chance to pick up the slack — and support the funds — needed for our upcoming presidential elections.

Not only is the $75 million passed less than one-fifth of the $400 million initially proposed for this year’s fiscal budget but it is also an exact duplication of the previous year’s funding. This funding, or rather lack thereof, is undeniably insufficient and a direct snub to election officials across the country.

Though the identical funding both this and last year might suggest stagnant, unchanging
circumstances, the election landscape has significantly transformed each voting cycle. We must financially prepare for the updates our election systems need. Adequate federal financial assistance will not only ensure our voting systems are up-to-date, but also will provide our election workers with the basic resources they need to carry out safe and secure elections.

Securing reliable internet access, computers compatible with current operating systems,
sufficient staffing, printers, phones, office supplies, as well as locations equipped with
functioning heat, electricity or enough space for employees will enhance our election efficiency and security as Americans cast their ballots in the coming months.

Unfortunately, these necessities are not guaranteed at most rural voting locations.

Moreover, an increase in election-related work is disproportionally higher in smaller jurisdictions than their counterparts in medium and large jurisdictions. This should not be surprising since one-third of all election offices do not have even one full-time employee.

Until Congress alters the status quo and takes a firm stance on attaining sufficient election
funding, these disparities will remain unaddressed across our nation’s polling places. And even though Democrats fell through on this round of federal funding, upgrading our election infrastructure is a widely supported, bipartisan initiative.

In fact, 98% of registered voters see investment in physical and cyber security as essential
infrastructure and 80% support a $2 billion annual investment to replace outdated voting
equipment. But even with this undeniable popularity, congressional advocates are still lacking momentum.

An investment in our election infrastructure is long overdue. Every county and municipality,
regardless of its size, should be equally capable of election administration. After all, it is only fair that our federal government provides reasonable financial support to aid our election officials tasked with administering federal elections.

With the upcoming 2024 Presidential election, we must act before it’s too late. I urge Congress to take the lead on this issue and support our election infrastructure.

Ultimately, our government cannot function like the well-oiled machine it was designed to be until we attend to the basic mechanics of our democracy. Let’s put our local election workers and voting locations first, protect the power of each American vote, and invest in the future of our infrastructure so that generations to come will benefit.

Nathaniel Butler, a member of the DeKalb County Young Republicans, is 2022 Young Republicans Man of the Year in Alabama.

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