In three Southern states with some of the nation’s most vulnerable election systems, federal grants designed to help thwart cyberattacks may not provide much protection in time for the mid-term elections as Congress intended. The $380 million in grant funding was supposed to help all states bolster their elections security infrastructure ahead of the 2018 elections after the intelligence community had warned that state voting systems could again be targeted by foreign hackers as they were in 2016. States have until 2023 to spend the grant money, said Thomas Hicks, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, which distributes the grants. But the long procurement process for voting machines makes it hard for states to buy new machines with their grants and get them into service by the 2018 mid-terms, even though “Congress looked at getting this money out quickly to have an effect on the 2018 election,” Hicks said. … With just over four months remaining until the mid-term elections, at least 40 states and the District of Columbia have requested more than $266 million of the $380 million pot, according to the EAC.
“This money is enough that (states) could have security professionals go through and fix low-hanging fruit; installing the right security patches, cleaning things up, installing intrusion detection systems, improving the security of voter registration database,” said [Dan} Wallach, of Rice University.
But in the 13 states that still use paperless machines, the grant money is better spent on newer, more secure voting machines – even if they won’t be ready for use in November – said Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, a group that promotes improved security at the polls. “The utility of this ($380 million) is to go towards this large one-time expenditure to replace voting systems,” Schneider said.
“What makes the paperless systems vulnerable is the inability to detect any problems with them,” like a cyberattack, “and the inability to recover (vote counts through paper records) if a problem is detected,'” Schneider added.