With looming fears of foreign interference in last year’s midterm elections, Congress rushed to send almost $6.2 million to help Alabama secure its voting system. But the state did not spend a dime of it, according to a report this month from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which disbursed the funds. The money came from the so-called omnibus spending bill approved in March 2018. But Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said the money did not come in time to spend before the November midterm election. In order to spend federal grant money, he told FOX10 News, the state has to going through a competitive bidding process and get companies on an approved vendor list, among other requirements. “That’s an arduous process, at best,” he said. “We’re not gonna get in a hurry because someone thinks we should be in a hurry to spend it.”Full Article: Alabama failed to spend federal grants for election security | News | fox10tv.com.
South Dakota: Secretary of State Office received another $3 million to beef up election security | KELO
Among the many adjustments the South Dakota Legislature made last month to state government’s current budget was adding $150,000 to the Secretary of State Office’s operational budget. That’s so the office can move ahead with using $3 million from a 2018 federal election security grant that Congress approved, according to Kea Warne. She is deputy secretary for elections for Secretary of State Steve Barnett, who took office in early January. Congress took the action in March 2018 after people from other nations such as Russia tried ways to influence the 2016 U.S. elections. Many states including South Dakota still needed approval from their legislatures before channeling the money toward greater election security. “Our office has not spent any of those funds to date, as we asked for the Legislature to provide the five percent match money for the federal grant during the 2019 legislative session,” Warne said. South Dakota’s lawmakers approved that $150,000 request as part of SB 180, which amended the 2019 general-appropriations act for state government. It becomes effective June 28. The 2020 state budget starts July 1, 2019. “Our office has been approved by the federal Election Assistance Commission to spend the full $3 million on new election equipment for the counties,” Warne said.Full Article: Secretary of State Office received another $3 million to beef up South Dakota election security.
National: How the Election Assistance Commission Came Not to Care So Much About Election Security | ProPublica
In a rush of preparation for this year’s midterm elections, scores of state and local governments have been working to safeguard their election systems from being hacked or otherwise compromised. At the same time, according to interviews with more than a dozen national, state and local election officials, the federal commission responsible for providing assistance to them has either been missing in action or working to thwart their efforts. The Election Assistance Commission has ceded its leadership role in providing security training, state and local officials say, forcing them to rely on the help of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which lacks the same level of experience in the issues confronting the country’s voting systems. One of the EAC’s commissioners has dismissed the threat of foreign governments undermining American elections in private meetings with state election officials, and often personally appealed to individual officials not to waste their time on the idea that election systems might be vulnerable to outside meddling.Full Article: How the Election Assistance Commission Came Not to Care… — ProPublica.
Thomas Hicks, commissioner of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, said today that EAC has developed a set of voluntary voting system guidelines to aid local election authorities, but the commission currently lacks a quorum to vote on the standards and distribute the guidance to localities. EAC currently has two active commissioners of a possible four, but requires a quorum of three in order to vote. President Trump has nominated two people to serve on EAC, but there has been no movement in Congress to confirm the nominees. “I’m hoping the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate come together and vote those two folks up or down relatively soon,” Hicks said today at the Symantec Government Symposium.Full Article: EAC Commissioner Pushes for Standards, Reveals Spending on Election Security – MeriTalk.
More than a decade before anyone worried about Russian bots, there were chads. The hanging chad was the most famous chad of all. But there was also the pregnant chad, the fat chad, the dimpled chad and the tri-chad. These were all minute variations on a scrap of paper a fraction of an inch in diameter, the vestige of a voting ballot not quite fully punched through. Hanging chads that could not be counted led George W. Bush to beat Al Gore in Florida in the 2000 election by 537 votes and become president. The hanging chad became the central image of that election, and of the Supreme Court case that decided it. Scenes of Florida election officials studying indentations on sheets of paper suggested a ridiculously outmoded system. Two years later, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, which was designed to provide funds for states “to replace punch card voting systems” and to “establish minimum election administration standards” for the nation’s 10,000 voting jurisdictions.Full Article: Election Assistance Commission ignoring Russia interference.
State election officials plan to spend about two thirds of election security money allocated by Congress earlier this year on new voting equipment and cybersecurity efforts, though not all the improvements will be completed before the November elections. New data gathered by the federal agency that distributes the funds detail how states plan to spend $380 million appropriated by Congress in March to upgrade election security. States plan to spend roughly $134.2 million on cybersecurity upgrades over five years, and $102.6 million on voting equipment, according to the data released by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. States plan to spend the rest of the federal funding on measures that include upgrading voter-registration databases, bolstering postelection auditing and communications capabilities.Full Article: States Detail Election-Security Plans - WSJ.
The federal government allocated $380 million to protect and improve election system security. In a June 24 House Oversight Committee hearing, officials and House Democrats made the case for a few dollars more. Thomas Hicks, commissioner of the Election Assistance Commission, confirmed that $335 million of the $380 million in the omnibus spending bill passed in March earmarked for election security assistance has been dispersed to states and that 100 percent of the funds have been requested. The remaining $45 million is expected to be distributed by next month.Full Article: Officials push for more election security dollars -- FCW.
Momentum may finally be building in Congress to take new action to secure the elections from cyberthreats as the midterms approach. Lawmakers have struggled to advance election security legislation in the months since they approved a $380 million funding package for states to upgrade their election systems. But a flurry of election-related hearings on Capitol Hill in recent weeks — including a pair of hearings Wednesday that featured testimony from some of the government’s top cybersecurity and election officials — shows they’re sharpening their focus on the issue. And the latest attention could help move bipartisan legislation to combat election cyberthreats closer to the goal line as November nears and intelligence officials warn of ongoing attempts by the Russian government to disrupt the U.S. political system. “The tone has changed so it’s much more forward-looking in terms of, ‘Let’s figure out what we can get done,’ ” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), co-sponsor of Secure Elections Act, which would streamline the way state and federal officials exchange threat information and has garnered broad support in the Senate. “Congress, I think, has realized our role has to focus on what’s in front of us, and that’s protecting the 2018 and 2020 elections from foreign interference.”Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Election security legislation may be gaining steam in Congress - The Washington Post.
U.S. elections are safer from hacking than they were two years ago, but the threat of foreign meddling hasn’t been stamped out, lawmakers said. “People are much more aware of the problem and taking steps to protect themselves” from hacking before the November elections, Sen. Amy Klobuchar(D-Minn.) said in a phone interview. “We’ve reached a new era” with lawmakers of both parties concerned about Russia’s interference in 2016 and are “trying to solve the problem going forward,” she said. Klobuchar spoke after the Senate Rules and Administration Committee took testimony from experts on how to safeguard U.S. elections. Congress provided $380 million for grants in response to Department of Homeland Security revelations that Russia targeted election systems in at least 21 states for possible interference in 2016. The DHS found no evidence of actual ballot tampering, but said steps are needed to secure future elections.Full Article: Elections Seen Safer From Hacking, but Meddling Threat Lingers | Bloomberg Government.
National: States using election security grants for new voting machines that won’t be ready for 2018 | McClatchy
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.Full Article: States use fed grants for new vote machines - not for 2018 | McClatchy Washington Bureau.
When Congress approved giving $380 million to states to bolster the security of their elections, state officials were caught off guard but extremely grateful. Elections are notoriously underfunded and haven’t seen a windfall like this from the federal government in more than a decade. But getting that money out to all the states, and then into the hands of localities that run the elections, with enough time to have a meaningful effect on the 2018 midterm elections is a difficult proposition. Three months after receiving congressional approval, and now less than five months from November’s midterm elections, 33 states have filed the necessary paperwork to begin receiving money. That number may seem “disconcertingly low” to some, especially when it was just 11 in mid-May, but there is mixed consensus on what it actually says about the country’s seriousness when it comes to handling threats leading up to the 2018 election.Full Article: Bureaucracy And Politics Slow Election Security Funding To States | WAMU.
Homeland Security Department inspectors aren’t turning up anything shocking when they assess state and local election systems for cybersecurity vulnerabilities in advance of the 2018 midterms, an official said Tuesday. Most of what Homeland Security is turning up in the risk and vulnerability assessments are the same issues you’d see in any information technology environment, Matthew Masterson, a senior cybersecurity adviser, told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That includes unpatched software, outdated equipment and misconfigured systems. Homeland Security has conducted risk and vulnerability assessments of 17 states and 10 localities so far, Masterson said.Full Article: Here’s How That $380 Million in Election Security Funding Is Being Spent - Nextgov.
National: Election Assistance Commission says 26 states have received cybersecurity funding ahead of midterms | The Hill
The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on Tuesday released a list of 26 states that have requested and received cybersecurity funding, money that aims to ensure state’s voting systems are properly secured ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. An EAC press release broke down which states have requested the cyber funds as well as how much they received. To date, these states have requested nearly $210 million in newly available funds, or about 55 percent of the total amount available. The funds were distributed under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, a bill passed by Congress that allocated $380 million in funds to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).Full Article: Election commission says 26 states have received cybersecurity funding ahead of midterms | TheHill.
Florida: After two months, Florida’s election security money is approved in one day | Tampa Bay Times
Well, that was fast. It took Gov. Rick Scott’s administration two months to formally apply for $19.2 million in election security money. It took the feds one day to approve the request. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission on Monday released a letter it sent to Sen. Marco Rubio that said the EAC “has reviewed Florida’s disbursement request and approved the request in one working day. We expect funds will be in Florida’s account this week.” … The money will be divided among the state and all 67 counties to improve security procedures to help detect threats to voting systems, such as the attempted phishing emails in at least five counties in 2016 that a federal agency said was the work of Russian hackers.Full Article: After two months, Florida’s election security money is approved in one day | Tampa Bay Times.
Wyoming is about halfway there. In an omnibus appropriations bill passed by the U.S. Congress this spring, legislators designated $380 million in elections security grants to the states, and Wyoming will be getting a $3 million chunk of those funds. The grants require a 5 percent match from states, working out to $150,000 from Wyoming. A formula breaking down distribution by county has yet to be hashed out, but will likely factor in population and individual county needs. The funds will be provided through the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which last disbursed payments for upgrades nationally in 2010. The last time Wyoming saw any of that money was in 2005, however, when the current generation of machines were bought for the 2006 elections.Full Article: State gets half of needed funds for voting equipment | Local News | codyenterprise.com.
Sixteen states have formally applied for federal money to improve their election security in advance of the 2018 vote. Florida is not yet one of them. The state’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, says: “We’ve been working on it daily.” The state hasn’t specifically said why up until this week it hasn’t sought the money. Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday ordered Detzner to seek Florida’s $19 million share of a $380 million fund, part of a spending bill that President Donald J. Trump signed in March. Scott also directed Detzner to hire five cyber-security experts.Full Article: Sixteen states apply for election security money. Florida? Not yet. | Tampa Bay Times.
Florida: Rick Scott orders Florida to use federal cybersecurity money for 2018 elections | Sun Sentinel
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday ordered his top elections official to take advantage of $19 million of federal money for cybersecurity in time for this year’s elections. Scott’s decree reverses the decision made by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who said Tuesday he wanted to move slowly and preserve the money for long-term election needs. The governor’s announcement comes after news media coverage of Detzner’s position, which the secretary of state outlined to reporters during the spring conference of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections in Fort Lauderdale. “We’re going to follow the governor’s directive. I think it’s well pointed, and we’re going to move aggressively based on his direction to submit a budget to the EAC and to try to draw down those dollars as soon as possible,” Detzner said Wedneday in an interview after the governor’s announcement.Full Article: Rick Scott orders Florida to use federal cybersecurity money for 2018 elections - Sun Sentinel.
Florida: Yesterday money wasn’t there for election cybersecurity. Now it is. What changed? | Miami Herald
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday overruled his chief elections official and ordered him to seek $19.2 million in federal money to help counties defend their voting systems against possible cyberattacks in the 2018 election. Scott’s intervention came hours after the Herald/Times quoted the official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, as saying the federal money would not be available before November because accepting it requires approval by the Legislature — even though that step is a formality that could be done at a brief meeting. “The answer is no,” Detzner said earlier this week when asked if the aid money could be used to improve election systems this year. “We don’t have the authority to spend that money without legislative approval.” That was unwelcome news for county elections officials, who are desperate for money.Full Article: Governor overrules Florida elections chief, seeks federal funds | Miami Herald.
Mississippi: Bennie Thompson and Delbert Hosemann spar on status of grant paperwork to U.S. EAC | Y’all Politics
On Monday, Congressman Bennie Thompson sent a letter to Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann asking him to submit paperwork on behalf of the state so that grant funding from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission would be eligible to the state. … “Russian interference in the 2016 election was a watershed moment for our democracy,” Thompson wrote in the letter. “Russia’s efforts have affected public confidence in elections and its efforts have shown no signs of cooling. Mississippi currently uses a combination of paper ballots and direct recording electronic voting machines (DREs) without a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).” … Just yesterday the Chairman for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Thomas Hicks, sent a letter to the editor of POLITICO in response to a letter published on May 17, “So far, few states have sought federal money to secure elections.”Full Article: Bennie Thompson and Delbert Hosemann spar on status of grant paperwork to U.S. EAC | Mississippi Politics and News - Y'all Politics.
Since elections were declared critical infrastructure nearly 17 months ago, state and local officials have been working to protect the integrity of the 2018 elections, but security holes in elections systems and voting equipment still exist. As part of the omnibus spending bill passed in March, Congress authorized $380 million in new Help America Vote Act funds to the states to help them secure elections systems in their counties and local jurisdictions. On April 17, the Elections Assistance Commission distributed the award packets to states along with instructions on how to apply for funding. States have 90 days to respond, and the funds must be used within five years. However, the new funding did not stop elections officials from asking for more support ahead of the 2018 elections at an April 18 EAC public forum.Full Article: Elections officials explore security options -- GCN.