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 That includes unpatched software, outdated equipment and misconfigured systems.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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
As part of the omnibus spending law passed on March 23, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories are getting funding to improve their elections infrastructure prior to the 2018 elections. On March 29, the Elections Assistance Commission announced how the $380 million will be distributed. An extension of the 2002 Help America Vote Act that distributed funds to states to improve voting systems and voter access issues identified following the 2000 election, the 2018 HAVA Election Security Fund will give states additional resources to secure and improve their election systems. The funds will be made available by the EAC as grants to make it easier for states to access the funds ahead of the 2018 federal elections. States will receive grant award notification letters in April. With primary elections already underway, however, states will be allowed to incur costs against forthcoming grant awards with EAC approval.