The bill, known as the Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act, passed the chamber on Wednesday night by unanimous consent, which requires the sign off of every senator.
It would allow the Justice Department to pursue federal charges against anyone who hacks voting systems used in federal elections under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
“Our legislation to protect voting machines will better equip the Department of Justice to fight back against hackers that intend to interfere with our election,” Blumenthal said when the bill was introduced.
Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, added that the bill “provides the Department of Justice the ability to investigate and prosecute those who seek to manipulate elections systems equipment” and would “help protect us from further attempts to interfere with the 2020 election.”
The Justice Department warned in 2018 that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as currently written, “does not prohibit the act of hacking a voting machine in many common situations.”
“In general, the CFAA only prohibits hacking computers that are connected to the Internet. … In many conceivable situations, electronic voting machines will not meet those criteria, as they are typically kept off the Internet,” the attorney general’s Cyber Digital Task Force wrote in the report.
The bill marks the second piece of election-security legislation passed by the Senate so far this year, after they cleared a bill that denies visas to individuals who meddle, or are suspected of trying to meddle, in U.S. elections.
But most election-related legislation has stalled in the Senate, including a mammoth ethics and election reform, known as H.R. 1, that was passed by House Democrats.
Republicans also blocked a bill spearheaded by Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing Lawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Va.) that would require campaigns to inform the FBI about contacts with foreign nationals who are trying to make campaign donations or coordinate with the campaign.
The Senate received a briefing on election security ahead of the 2020 election last week, with lawmakers saying the administration didn’t use the closed-door meeting to request additional funding or legislation.
“Congress will certainly continue to monitor this closely, while resisting any efforts to use the failures of the past to justify sweeping federalizations of election law, as some on the other side have consistently sought to do,” he said.
“New federal election laws would not be the right thing to do, so I assume we’d have no legislation like that come through the Rules Committee,” Blunt said after the briefing.