The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in a report released Friday, pegged the cost of H.R. 1–the For the People Act of 2019–at $2.6 billion over the next five years, with $1.5 billion of that going for states and counties to purchase new voting technology.

The wide-ranging legislation covers a variety of election-related measures including amending and reforming Federal statutes that govern voting rights, elections, election security, campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics. However, the most costly part of the bill would create new and voluntary programs to provide public financing for elections and grant programs related to election systems and security.

For the purposes of its estimate, CBO assumed that the legislation will be enacted in 2019. However, the outlook for passage of the bill by the Republican-controlled Senate is uncertain.

In the report, CBO provided estimates for a number of measures included in the legislation, including:

  • Voting System Grants–The legislation authorizes funding for states to improve voting technology and reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities in election infrastructure. CBO estimates this program would cost roughly $1.5 billion over the 2019-2024 period.
  • Election Assistance Grants–Under H.R. 1, Congress would approve the appropriation of $500 million in 2019 and “whatever amounts are necessary in future years” for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to provide grants to states to implement online and automatic voter registration. CBO estimates those grants would cost $750 million over the 2019-2024 period.
  • Bounty Program–To further strengthen election cybersecurity, H.R. 1 would authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a bug bounty program that would “facilitate and encourage assessments by independent technical experts in cooperation with state and local election officials to identify and report cybersecurity vulnerabilities.” CBO estimates that implementing the program would cost $55 million over the 2019-2024 period.
  • Other Department of Homeland Security Provisions–In addition to larger programs, the legislation also requires EAC and DHS to complete a wide variety of reports, analyses, and other administrative actions aimed at securing the election process. This includes “providing security clearances to state election officials, testing voting systems for compliance with cybersecurity guidelines, and establishing a national commission to protect democratic institutions.” CBO estimates that implementing those measures would cost $13 million over the 2019-2024 period.
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.