Election Officials Echo Plea for More Election Security Resources

By: - June 21, 2018 12:00 am

Steve Simon, Minnesota’s secretary of state, testifies during a U.S. Senate rules committee hearing on election security. Simon said states need more resources to fend off possible cyberattacks. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via AP

Several secretaries of state descended on Washington, D.C., this week with a common chorus: they need more money from the federal government to shore up election security ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

“We have to stay at least one step ahead of the bad guys all the time,” Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon testified before the U.S. Senate rules committee.

Several senators on the panel, including Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, pushed for passage of the Secure Elections Act, which would help state and local officials share information to address security threats. Lawmakers are trying to pass the bill, which has bipartisan support, in time for the fall elections.

The federal budget this year allocated $380 million to states for election security, but local and state officials have said the grant money is not enough to face the threat of outside actors from infiltrating their election systems.

While most state officials at the hearing said they worried about the security risk from outside forces trying to influence U.S. elections, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft took a different tone.

“Evidence suggests that voter fraud is an exponentially greater threat than cyberattacks,” the Republican said.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said he disagreed, noting that Illinois’ election system had been breached in 2016 and hackers had accessed the voter registration data of 90,000 people. It was the only successful hacking among 21 states targeted during that presidential election.

“Hacking is an exponentially greater threat than voter fraud,” Durbin said. “I can count on my hands the number of instances of voter fraud in Illinois the last seven election cycles.”

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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.