Trump-Approved Budget Short on Election Security, Counties Say

By: - March 29, 2018 12:00 am

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call


A voter and her daughter cast a ballot in North Las Vegas during the 2016 presidential election. Nevada is one of the few states that have provided funding to counties to buy new election equipment.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the location of Mercer County within the state of Pennsylvania. It is in the western part of the state.

Tucked away in the massive .3 trillion spending bill President Donald Trump signed last week is a nugget of funding that local election officials have desperately needed. Unfortunately, they say, it isn’t nearly enough.

Congress set aside million that will be divvied up among states to shore up election security, including new software, cybersecurity staff and other protections for state registration databases and aging voting equipment. But while the funding is certainly welcomed by local election officials, many of them warn it falls far short of what they need to deal with the potential security challenges of the midterm elections in November.

It’s only “a drop in the bucket of what is really needed,” said Jeff Greenburg, the director of elections in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is one of 41 states where some counties and cities use election equipment that is more than a decade old, according to the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. Older machines are more likely to malfunction or break down on Election Day, causing long lines and potentially dissuading some people from casting their ballots. Some older machines also are susceptible to wireless malware attacks, even if they are not directly connected to the internet, or have removable memory devices a hacker might manipulate.

Pennsylvania is also one of 13 states where some counties use voting machines that lack a paper record. Paper records are essential to having a secure election, said Larry Norden, the deputy director of the Brennan Center’s democracy program. They can ensure an accurate audit if electronic records of vote tallies are compromised.

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Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros

Matt Vasilogambros covers voting rights, gun laws and Western climate policy for Stateline. He lives in San Diego, California.