Markey stumps for kids' television
Sen. Ed Markey may be out of the age demographic for kids' television, having served in Congress for all but seven years of Sesame Street’s run, but on Wednesday he urged the Federal Communications Commission to maintain “Kid Vid” rules that require broadcast networks to air at least three hours per week of children’s educational programming.
“This is nutrition for the minds of children,” said Markey, who's admitted that Big Bird is his favorite Sesame Street character.
The commission announced in January that it would examine the current rules, in place since 1996 and mandated by the Children’s Television Act. Supporters of changing the rules, like FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, argue they are outdated given the proliferation of cable TV and the internet.
Markey, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, and other advocates emphasized they are open to a discussion about changing the rules, but not without an extensive fact-finding process.
“Our rule for kids should be strengthened, never weakened,” said Markey, noting that 11 million children under age six live in low-income households and are the main consumers of over-the-air educational programming.
They also cautioned that rules changes could lead to broadcast educational programming being shifted to little-watched digital subchannels that are harder for parents to locate. Current rules specify the programming air on a network’s main channel.
Senators fret over auditing election results
Much of the effort to secure U.S. election systems has focused on protecting voting machines and encouraging best security practices. The burning question for several senators at a Rules Committee hearing Wednesday was how to audit election results.
Election systems in five states—Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and South Carolina—do not currently produce “vote-cast” paper backups. "Is the simplest rule,” Sen. Angus King asked the panel, “that there should always be a paper backup?”
Not necessarily, came the replies. "Everyone can't use paper,” testified the Election Assistance Commission’s Thomas Hicks. “If you have a disability, if you come back from Iraq with no hands, it's hard to do that paper piece of it.”
Bryan Finney, CEO of Democracy Live, also urged Congress to reconsider “paper as the panacea” to postelection audits.
Peter Lichtenheld, vice president of operations at Hart InterCivic, suggested that states could work directly with vendors to review their systems. That didn’t sit well with Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who said he had pushed for his state to do an audit of the 2016 presidential elections prior to state elections the next year. “Many of our local election systems were reluctant to turn over their machines to the state when they were that close to the  election,” Warner said.