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.
Articles about voting issues in Minnesota.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.