Government doles out election security funds to states

Government doles out election security funds to states
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The Trump administration has given states $380 million to upgrade and secure their voting technology.

The funding was included in the massive appropriations bill approved by Congress and signed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE last week. It represents an effort by lawmakers in Washington to protect upcoming elections from cyber threats, following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

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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.” 

Experts and lawmakers have stepped up calls for states to secure their digital voting systems after the Department of Homeland Security revealed that Russian hackers targeted election infrastructure in 21 states as part of a broader effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. 

Most of the efforts were not successful, officials have said, though Illinois has disclosed that its voter registration database was breached. Officials also maintain there is no evidence any vote tallies were changed. 

But the developments have nevertheless raised awareness about security surrounding voter registration databases and even voting machines themselves. Experts have increasingly called for states to do away with outdated paperless voting machines and replace them with systems that produce voter-verified paper backups that can be audited in the event a result is called into question.

Currently, five states rely completely on paperless voting machines and certain localities in several others use the systems.

In addition to the new federal grants, states can also receive election security help from Homeland Security, which designated voting systems as critical infrastructure in early 2017.

The department is offering remote cyber hygiene tests as well as more rigorous on-site vulnerability tests to states that request them. The department is also working to share sensitive threat information with state election officials.