State officials requested more money from the federal government to help fund their efforts towards better election security.
On 21 June, three state officials who appeared on a panel before the Senate Rules Committee said they’d welcome additional monies from the Election Assistance Committee (EAC), a U.S. agency created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) which provides assistance to states via its Office of Grants Management.
One of those state officials was Jim Condos, Secretary of State for Vermont. As quoted by CyberScoop:
While our upgrades to equipment and cybersecurity will be an ongoing challenge for many states, the federal funding received will regrettably be insufficient to do all that we want or need. However, we are very grateful for the boost that these federal funds provide us at this time.
Minnesota’s secretary of state Steve Simon concurred by asking that “those in Congress consider some ongoing way to provide some resources for us along those same lines.” He said the $6.6 million already afforded to his state by the EAC was helpful but that election security is “expensive” and requires greater funding.
Jay Ashcroft, Secretary of State for Missouri, put it even more succinctly: “If you send it, we will use it.”
Together, the three officials said that additional monies could fund their states’ efforts to hire IT staff to maintain statewide voter registration systems, implement security measures like two-factor authentication and conduct post-election audits.
Condos, Simon and Ashcroft requested more funding despite uncertainty involving what role the federal government should play in state elections. In early 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) labeled the entire United States’ election system as “critical infrastructure.” This designation made protecting polling places and election systems a priority for the Department after reports of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Not everyone supported that decision. For example, the National Association of Secretaries of State issued a statement calling the DHS designation “legally and historically unprecedented.” Others worried the designation could lead to federal overreach into state elections.
Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, state officials are still trying to figure out what type of balance will help them best defend against election hacking. That arrangement could involve a requirement that states run post-election audits in order to obtain additional funding, an option which was discussed at the hearing.
States aren’t the only government bodies that need to be worried about blackhat hackers. Federal agencies also need to take steps to secure their networks against computer criminals.