February 8, 2023

‘Unflinching and Unyielding’: The State of The Union Address and Why We Must Invest in Local Election Administrators

In January of 2022, President Biden called on the Senate to take action on Democracy in a fiery call to secure voting rights across the nation.

President Biden said, “I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend the right to vote.” As we all know, the right to vote depends on local election offices having the resources to make voting accessible. If President Biden and his administration are to keep true to their commitment to voting rights, and our democracy, fiscal investments to bolster our elections systems must be prioritized. In other words, starting now, investing in election infrastructure will largely determine how well we defend the right to vote.

President Biden has shown he gets how important it is to fund the nuts and bolts of democracy. He requested a $10 billion investment in his last budget to support state and local election departments. We’d like to see more of that pragmatism from President Biden in the next State of the Union speech. What we don’t want to see is another partisan fight over voting rights bills like HR1 that becomes a barrier to getting resources to local election departments.

When it comes to investing in American democracy, we need to think long-term, across multiple election cycles, in all 50 states. Experts estimate that states would need over $54 billion over the next 10 years to fully modernize and secure the nation’s election infrastructure. This cost would cover:

  • Personnel, equipment, and supplies for election administration and operations
  • Opening new polling locations
  • Replacing antiquated voting machines
  • Modernizing statewide voter registration systems
  • Implementing risk-limiting audits, which are used to confirm the accuracy of election results
  • Improving and maintaining cybersecurity

A bipartisan coalition asked the last Congress for $400 million to bolster American election systems — significantly less than what experts recommend, but better than nothing. Despite strong support from both sides of the political aisle, the final package allocated a measly $75 million for elections. To put this number in perspective, the city of Los Angeles alone spent $53 million administering the 2021 gubernatorial recall election alone.

Congress’ failure to invest even the bare minimum in our democracy will continue to have a ripple effect throughout the 2024 presidential election and 2026 midterms. It will also impact key state and local elections — elections that determine everyday outcomes for towns across our nation. And what’s worse? We’re already behind on funding because of last year’s measly chump change. Supply chains and procurement processes for state and local election administration are complex, and it takes time to carefully and correctly implement those improvements.

On the precipice of another critical election, investing in our elections must be top of mind. Particularly after the failings of the omnibus, the clock is ticking. President Biden has an opportunity in the upcoming State of the Union Address to set priorities — not just for the White House, but for local election officials, election administrators, and for all eligible Americans who are looking to cast a ballot securely and efficiently in 2024 and beyond. 

We hope that President Biden will again be clear and unyielding in his commitment to investing in American election infrastructure. Our democracy depends on it.