About a third of federal funding meant to improve election technology will be spent on cybersecurity-related improvements, while another third will be used to upgrade old equipment, according to plans released Tuesday by states and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In March, Congress appropriated $380 million for states to use for upgrades to election infrastructure, under the Help America Vote Act. It’s the first time the federal distributes HAVA funding since 2010. “The 380 [million] is something new in terms of additional funding, but it’s in that same realm of ensuring that our voting process remain secure and that vote of confidence remains high,” Tom Hicks, chairman of the EAC, told CyberScoop.
While states have a lot of leeway in how to spend the money, Congress and the EAC emphasized the need for boosting election security, given heightened concern over foreign meddling. “I would say it’s a magnitudes more on security,” said Mark Abbott, the EAC’s director of grants.
Forty-one states are spending at least some of the funding specifically on cybersecurity upgrades to their election infrastructure. That makes up about 36 percent of the $380 million. Three states — New York, Illinois and Wisconsin — are spending the entirety of their grants on cybersecurity, amounting to more than $13 million.
Several states, like Arizona, Illinois, Nevada and New Mexico are hiring additional IT staff to focus on cybersecurity for the 2018 election, according to Abbott.