Despite the best efforts of Speaker Paul Ryan, who canned the Matthew Masterson, head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and chief cyber security official in the commission, it is still doing its work, and in fact quickly turned around the $380 million Congress authorized in the omnibus spending bill passed and signed last week. The money will help states upgrade and secure their voting systems.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has specified the exact amount allocated to each state, according to a list posted late this week. California will receive the largest award—roughly $35 million—followed by Texas with $23 million and New York with $19 million.
States can use the funds to make technology and election security improvements in order to secure their voting infrastructure.
For example, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos (D) recently told The Hill that his state may invest in additional penetration testing and implement two-factor authentication for town clerks who access portions of the voter registration database. The state of Vermont will receive $3 million of the election security funds, according to the EAC.
“We will look at how we can ramp up even more security,” Condos said. “We’ll look at maybe beefing up our firewalls.”
The states have the money, now they need the administration’s assistance in figuring out what exactly they need to be doing with it. Last month, state officials pleaded with the Department of Homeland Security to tell them what specific threats they might be facing. That information exists, but they aren’t seeing it: “In some cases, the election officials say they have no legal access to the information: After a year of effort, only 21 of them have received clearance to review classified federal information on election threats.”
At last month’s meeting of the National Organization of Secretaries of State, they received a briefing from federal intelligence officials about the threat posed by Russia, but said that they “left a great deal unclear, including the precise nature of the threat and exactly why state officials were being left in the dark.” Generally, states can take measures to secure their voting systems, but if they were informed of the specific threats, they could target the funding a lot more effectively.
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