Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon is increasing pressure on legislators to help his office claim $6.6 million in federal dollars to increase election security. Minnesota was one of 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian hackers in 2016, but it is the only state to still not access federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding approved by Congress last year. After Capitol leaders initially pointed to the measure as a slam-dunk for early passage, it has yet to reach the desk of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. A proposal in the GOP-controlled Senate would release just a fraction of the money right away, leaving most of the money subject to late-session budget debate. “This is cause for concern and something I think should inspire all of us to act quickly,” Simon told the Senate’s elections committee. Simon’s plea comes fresh off a recent visit to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security this month. “We need the full authorization immediately,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said he would not commit to allocating the entire $6.6 million immediately, but he agreed to making available the initial amount Simon requested before the 2018 election.
“So it kind of depends on which way we decide, between the two bodies, that we want to go,” Gazelka said. “But we know that those original numbers are important for the state to get, and we’re aware of it.”
The money would be used to update the aging Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) and for training election officials throughout the state, among other targets.