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House, Senate to aim for compromise on bills releasing federal election security funds

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House and Senate negotiators were set Thursday evening to begin hashing out the differences in their bills that would appropriate federal election security dollars that Minnesota’s secretary of state has said are badly needed to make the state’s voting systems safe against outside attacks.

The House and Senate passed differing versions of legislation that would appropriate the more than $6 million in federal grant funds available to Minnesota through the Help America Vote Act.

Congress passed the grant funds as part of a larger appropriations bill in March 2018 in an effort to thwart future cyberattacks on election infrastructure. Minnesota was the only state that did not claim those grant dollars ahead of the 2018 election after former Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the appropriation as part of a larger bill.

[MORE View the side-by-side]

The version of HF14 passed in the House on a 105-23 vote, where Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park) is the sponsor, would appropriate the full $6.6 million available to the state during Fiscal Year 2019.

Secretary of State Steve Simon has said the funds would be used on efforts to modernize, secure and update Minnesota’s Statewide Voter Registration System.

The Senate’s language, however, would appropriate only $1.5 million of the available funds, and includes other language that would require the secretary of state’s office to develop a report on inactive voters who registered on Election Day and were potentially ineligible to vote.

Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) is the Senate sponsor, where the amended bill passed 35-32.

Both bills would retroactively credit state expenditures on election security efforts to meet a required 5 percent state match

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