It took more wrangling with lawmakers than expected, but the state’s chief election official now has access to $6.6 million in federal funds to implement his plan for warding off hackers and potential cyberattacks. “We were the very last state to get that money,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. Minnesota received its share of the federal election security money from the Help America Vote Act over a year ago. But political maneuvering at the State Capitol delayed the authorization Simon needed to put the money to use. He didn’t get it until last month’s special session. “It still puts us behind other states,” Simon said. “Every other state not only had it but had it some time ago in time for the last election. So, we are behind, but we can now use that money.” Simon said most of the money will go toward short-term projects that can be done ahead of the presidential primary next March. The rest will go toward a four-year project to modernize the state’s voter registration system. With the help of cybersecurity experts, local election officials and legislators, Simon put together a detailed plan months ago for spending the money.Full Article: Minnesota finally working on long-promised election security improvements | MPR News.
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Election cybersecurity, once described as one of the lightest legislative lifts of 2019, has devolved into a stubborn controversy that some Democrats worry foreshadows turbulence ahead as this year’s Capitol session enters the home stretch. It boils down to a simple unanswered question: How much of $6.6 million in Help America Vote Act funds, which the federal government granted Minnesota last year, should go to Secretary of State Steve Simon to shore up the state’s election cyber-defenses? The two chambers have quite different answers. On Feb. 21, the DFL-led House voted 105-23 to approve House File 14, with many Republicans joining the Democrats. That bill appropriates the full $6.6 million. On Feb. 28, the Senate voted 35-32 along party lines to give Simon access to only $1.5 million of the grant — the same amount included in last year’s vetoed Omnibus Prime supplemental finance bill. The discrepancy sent the HF14 to a joint House-Senate conference committee to iron out the differences. On Tuesday, for the second time since March 21, Senate Republicans — led by conference committee co-chair Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake — skipped a HAVA hearing. The meeting went ahead anyway. Democrats — including three Senate DFLers who aren’t conferees — heard testimony from Simon and former Cook County, Ill., election director Noah Praetz. But with no Senate Republicans on hand to continue negotiations or vote on a compromise, the issue remains unresolved.Full Article: Senators skip cybersecurity hearing – Minnesota Lawyer.
A Republican state senator is putting election security upgrades at risk by blocking federal funding from getting to Minnesota, Secretary of State Steve Simon said Thursday. Minnesota is the only state that has not accepted its share of the federal money under the Help America Vote Act, which amounts to $6.6 million. State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer is blocking it, and said during a wide-ranging news conference Thursday that she was concerned about how the funding would be used. Now, Minnesota’s four-year project to recode its statewide voter database is in jeopardy because the state has three years and 11 months before it would have to return the money to the feds. “We literally don’t have all the time we need to do the cornerstone project here,” Simon said. “That’s dangerous. It’s putting our election system at risk. And it’s got to stop right now.” Kiffmeyer – a former secretary of state – defended her actions Thursday while claiming she was misquoted last week saying that hacking was “no big deal.” “I found that in the information we had to date, there was a lot lacking. We had more questions,” Kiffmeyer told reporters about why she was blocking the funding. But Simon said Kiffmeyer has never come to him to get more information. “We have offered her the opportunity to ask a question, make a comment, make a suggestion. Nothing. Absolutely nothing,” Simon said in an interview.Full Article: Minnesota hasn't accepted election security funding. Why not? - Story | KMSP.
Minnesota: Partisan drama erupts over election security funds as Republicans skip possible vote | Twin Cities Pioneer Press
What was supposed to be one of the biggest no-brainers of the Minnesota Legislature has erupted into a partisan issue with Republican lawmakers blocking the spending of federal election dollars that every other state in the nation has put to use. On Tuesday, three Republican senators for the second time skipped a meeting that could have resulted in a vote on up to $6.6 million in federal funds that have been approved for more than a year for election cybersecurity as part of the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA. In an odd twist: the Republican Senators aren’t saying exactly why they’re blocking it. With the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian meddling in U.S. elections, and election officials warning that now is the time to gird against hacking attempts in the 2020 elections, the issue has taken on added urgency as the Legislature hurtles toward a tense final weeks when disagreements over larger issues often drags down smaller issues. That’s what happened last year when Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a massive bill that contained volumes of unrelated matters, including a portion of the HAVA funds. The stalling of the money has caught Democrats, including Secretary of State Steve Simon, off guard because the money is sitting in a federal account; it’s not new money and requires only $167,000 in state spending for a local match to free up the federal funds. That’s a pittance of the state’s nearly $50 billion two-year budget.Full Article: Partisan drama erupts over election security funds as Republicans skip possible vote – Twin Cities.
Minnesota: While hackers threaten 2020 election systems, politics intruding on security fixes | Minneapolis Star Tribune
Despite broad agreement that foreign hackers will again target American voting systems in 2020, partisan friction in St. Paul and Washington has stalled efforts to bolster election security, with less than a year to go before Minnesotans cast presidential primary ballots. The delay has alarmed elections officials and cybersecurity experts who warn of a repeat of 2016, when Russians targeted Minnesota and 20 other states in what special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, released Thursday, called a “sweeping and systematic fashion.” “Hackers learn from hackers: The question becomes if [Russia] can do it, why wouldn’t any hacker around the world do it?” said Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and cybersecurity scholar. “We can talk Russia all day, but everybody knows this can be done now.” Amid the warnings of Russian interference, Minnesota lawmakers remain at odds over using more than $6 million in federal funds approved by Congress more than a year ago to shore up election security. Minnesota is the only state that has yet to touch its share of the $380 million federal appropriation. At the same time, a measure co-sponsored by Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar to improve cybersecurity information sharing between federal agencies and local election workers also is at a standstill. Local officials warn that time is running out.Full Article: While hackers threaten 2020 election systems, politics intruding on security fixes - StarTribune.com.
The Minnesota Legislature shouldn’t delay up to $6.6 million in federal election cybersecurity funding to use as potential end-of-session bargaining, according to Secretary of State Steve Simon. Simon made several stops in south-central Minnesota Monday to discuss the upcoming 2020 election with local officials. The secretary of state stopped at Gustavus Adolphus College to praise students’ efforts to increase voter turnout. He also shared concerns he has with lawmakers delaying discussions on federal funding. “Every state in the country has it,” Simon said after a meeting with Blue Earth County officials. “We’re the only state that doesn’t. And it’s inexcusable.” Congress approved $380 million in additional election cybersecurity money following the 2016 elections and numerous attacks on state election systems. While 45 states automatically received funding, Minnesota — which gets $6.6 million under the updated Help America Vote Act — is one of five states that needs lawmaker approval before the Secretary of State’s Office gets that money. Simon made a $1.5 million request from lawmakers last year to free up money before the 2018 election, as Minnesota was one of 21 states targeted by foreign hackers attempting to get access to voter information during the 2016 election. That request was rolled into a $1 billion supplemental budget bill then-Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed. The DFL-controlled House passed a new bill in February allowing election officials to get all $6.6 million. Yet the GOP-controlled Senate passed a bill that only freed up Simon’s original $1.5 million request.Full Article: Simon: Federal election money shouldn't be budget bargaining chip | Local News | mankatofreepress.com.
Three months into the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers still haven’t released federal funds set aside for election security. As part of the Help America Vote Act or HAVA, Congress allotted $6.6 million to Minnesota to combat cyber threats and other attacks against the state’s elections infrastructure. As of the first week in April, Minnesota is the only state in the nation to leave the money on the table, unspent. “We want to re-secure our voter registration data base. It’s the spine of the system,” Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon told KARE. “It does more than just voter registration. It does a lot of things in the election system and it needs to be substantially recoded and fortified against attacks.” We now know that Russian operatives tried to hack into Minnesota’s elections Internet framework in 2016. They were able to breach the system, but unable to alter any records or processes. Secretary Simon wants to use the money to modernize the registration system, build a voter database backup, add real-time monitoring of cyber threats, and create a new position in his office to help local elections officials with security issues. Federal officials made many of these recommendations after a site visit to Minnesota last year. But Simon can’t take any of these actions without first getting permission from the legislature. That hasn’t happened yet.Full Article: Election security bill in limbo | kare11.com.
Minnesota: Federal election security funding due for Minnesota hits snag in Legislature | Star Tribune
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.Full Article: Federal election security funding due for Minnesota hits snag in Legislature - StarTribune.com.
Renee Brown-Goodell is not shy about introducing herself as a felon, a label she has carried without shame after spending more than four years in federal prison for a 2012 fraud conviction. But it still stings that she was forced to sit out the past two elections: Her right to vote remains out of reach until she completes her post-prison supervised release. “I’m out here and I’m expected to work, I’m expected to pay taxes and take care of my family and behave like a regular American citizen should behave,” Brown-Goodell said. “And yet I’m not a regular American citizen because you have stripped away my rights to be a regular American citizen.”Full Article: Push to restore felon voting rights in Minn. gains momentum - StarTribune.com.
Legislation creating what supporters call an automatic voter registration process in Minnesota passed its first test Wednesday in the House. The House subcommittee on elections advanced the measure on voice vote, sending it to the government operations committee. Under the bill, applicants for a state driver’s license, identification or learner’s permit would be put into the voter registration system unless they opted out. Current law allows people to opt in to voter registration during those transactions. Rep. Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth, said her bill would make voting more efficient.Full Article: House panel advances automatic voter registration bill | Capitol View | Minnesota Public Radio News.
Minnesota: Bid to get federal election security money picks up early in session | Minneapolis Star Tribune
One of 21 states whose elections systems Russian hackers targeted in 2016, Minnesota is still the only one unable to use federal money awarded to improve election security across the country. But an early victory this week in the House has Secretary of State Steve Simon optimistic that he will soon be able to access that money to update the state’s voter registration system, among other upgrades, in what could be one of the first pieces of legislation to reach Gov. Tim Walz’s desk. Two House measures seeking to utilize $6.6 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds made available to the state last year won quick passage in House committee this week. The proposals died last year after being tied up in a broad spending package Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed as part of a feud with legislators.Full Article: Bid to get Minnesota federal election security money picks up early in session - StarTribune.com.
Cyber security election experts say some Minnesota counties are not doing enough to protect their systems from hackers. A simple security measure of two-factor authentication used to protect emails, bank accounts and social media pages could help safeguard county computers from potential hacker stealing login information. Those experts say this is so important because this closely watched mid-term election is a prime target for hackers trying to disrupt the democratic process at all levels. “In 2016, we saw similar attacks and attempts to steal information log-in credentials and (that) might be valuable to someone who wants to influence the election,” said Reed Southard, a Harvard University researcher.Full Article: Cyber Security Experts say 2-Factor Authentication Crucial To Election Security | KSTP.com.
Minnesota, a swing state that has been attacked by foreign hackers more than once, has millions in federal funds to spend on election security ahead of the 2018 midterms — but will be the only state in the country that can’t touch that cash because of a standoff between Republicans and Democrats. Mark Ritchie, a Democrat who served as Minnesota’s secretary of state from 2007 to 2015, blamed the impasse on “partisan football,” and said that election interference “is either not being taken seriously or, what I fear, it’s the object of high alarm by some and for others, they’re just fine with it.” Minnesota was one of the 21 states targeted by the Russians in 2016. Ritchie has also described previous attacks on Minnesota’s online systems by foreign hackers to NBC News.
In March, Congress allocated $380 million in funding for election security to be distributed to the states by the federal Election Assistance Commission. Minnesota, which is slated to receive about $6.6 million, needed approval from both its Democratic governor and its state legislature, controlled by Republicans, before using the federal funding. But the legislative session ended in May without that approval.
Leading up to the end of the legislative session, Minnesota’s current secretary of state, Steve Simon, sounded the alarm about the funding. In addition to meeting with state leaders of both parties, he testified six times in front of Minnesota House and Senate committees.Why one state targeted by Russians can't use its federal election security funds.
A legal battle over Minnesota voting records will head to higher court. Ramsey County District Judge Jennifer Frisch, who previously ordered Secretary of State Steve Simon to turn over the voter records to a nonprofit political group, agreed to stay her own ruling to give Simon a chance to appeal it. The Minnesota Voters Alliance asked for the voting records, in hopes of proving a theory that thousands of ineligible voters register on Election Day and then vote before their identity and eligibility is verified. If their eligibility is challenged after the fact, their vote has already counted.Full Article: kare11.com | Voter records tussle headed to higher court.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a Minnesota law that prohibits people from wearing political clothing or buttons at polling places, calling the ban overly broad but leaving room for the state to impose narrower restrictions. The 7-2 ruling invalidating the particulars of Minnesota’s law left state and county officials who administer elections unsure what’s proper attire and what isn’t for the upcoming August primary and the November general election. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that Minnesota’s law needed clearer parameters for both voters and election officials to avoid confusion and prevent potential violations of First Amendment free-speech rights. Roberts wrote that “the State must be able to articulate some sensible basis for distinguishing what may come in from what must stay out.”Full Article: Supreme Court strikes down Minnesota law on voter clothing - StarTribune.com.
Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of a massive budget bill means Minnesota can’t tap $6 million in federal funds for election cybersecurity until after the November elections. The federal government allocated the money earlier, but the Secretary of State’s office can’t spend it without legislative authorization. That authorization was in the budget bill Dayton vetoed Wednesday.Secretary of State Steve Simon says he repeatedly asked lawmakers to put the language in a non-controversial, stand-alone bill that Dayton would sign. But he says lawmakers chose the “riskiest path” by putting it instead in a bill Dayton repeatedly promised to veto.Full Article: The Latest: Veto Leaves Election Security Money in Limbo | Minnesota News | US News.
Minnesota: Dayton Has Yet To Sign Omnibus Bill That Includes Money for Election Cyber Security | KSTP
The massive omnibus spending bill Gov. Mark Dayton has suggested he may possibly veto includes federal money Minnesota could use for election cybersecurity. President Donald Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 in March. It authorized funding to states for elections under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. But in order for the money to come to Minnesota for cyber security, it must be approved by the legislature and governor. Minnesota’s share of the federal funds is $6,595,610, according to the Secretary of State’s office.Full Article: Dayton Has Yet To Sign Omnibus Bill That Includes Money for Election Cyber Security | KSTP.com.
By the narrowest of margins, a bill to return the right to vote for felons faster than would happen otherwise stalled again Thursday at the Capitol. The bill was put on hold following an 8-7 show of hands vote in the House Public Safety and Security Policy Committee, with Rep. Nick Zerwas joining all Democrats on the losing side. Zerwas, R-Elk River, is a bill cosponsor. The proposal could arise later as a potential amendment on the House floor to another bill, but the likelihood of success is slim. A companion measure has previously gotten through the Senate — though not since Republicans took control in 2017 — but the House has typically been the bigger struggle. The bill would change the law so felons would be able to vote once they are no longer incarcerated.Full Article: Wait will go on for felons seeking return of voting rights | Capitol View | Minnesota Public Radio News.
Minnesota: Citing Russian threat, Secretary of State asking for $1.4 million to update voter registration system | Twin Cities Pioneer Press
Citing national security officials’ warnings that Minnesota’s voter database had already been targeted by elements “at the behest of the Russian government,” the secretary of state is asking for funding to update its statewide registration system. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said he’s been in multiple meetings with Department of Homeland Security officials — including a meeting as late as February — relating to foreign attempts to affect the integrity of Minnesota’s voting system. “They are sobering,” Simon said of the meetings, for which he was recently given “secret” security clearance — meaning, he said, he couldn’t give too many details. In 2016, entities associated with the Russian government targeted 21 states, including Minnesota, national security officials have said. Two of those states — Illinois and Arizona — had their state databases penetrated.Full Article: Citing Russian threat, MN asking for $1.4 million to update voter registration system – Twin Cities.
In 2010, Andrew Cilek went to his local polling place in Hennepin County, Minnesota, to vote. Cilek was wearing a T-shirt that had three different images on it: the Tea Party logo, the message “Don’t Tread on Me,” and an image of the Gadsden flag, which dates back to the American Revolution but is often associated these days with the Tea Party and libertarianism. Cilek also wore a small button bearing the message “Please I.D. Me,” worn by opponents of voter fraud. An election worker in the polling place told Cilek he would have to cover up or take off the shirt and button. Cilek refused to do so, and later made two more attempts to enter the polling place. On his third try, he was allowed to vote, but an election worker took down his name and address.Full Article: Argument preview: Justices to hear challenge to Minnesota voting dress code - SCOTUSblog.