State officials are making a concerted effort to revamp Minnesota’s defenses against cyber attacks—a preemptive initiative for the 2018 election season and beyond. Secretary of State Steve Simon made his annual 87-county tour of the state, stopping in Brainerd last week to tout new developments to the state’s cyber security systems. Under his guidance, the state has mobilized a cyber security team, hired consultants to analyze cyber security improvements and partnered with agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to address areas of weakness.
New legislation drafted in 2017 looks to revamp the state’s aging voting equipment with a $7 million grant to purchase new voting equipment for state auditors. It provides up to a 50 percent price-match for mandatory equipment, such as optical scan precinct counters, optical scan central counters or assistive voting devices, as well as a 75 percent price-match for electronic rosters. The last time there were federally mandated funds for new election equipment was 2002.
Cyber security was a point of concern going back to his appointment in 2015, Simon said. But with the fears swirling around the 2016 election season and recent confirmation that Minnesota’s voting system was targeted by hackers, the issue gained an urgency it previously didn’t have.