HAVA the waiting game: when will Minnesotans win voter protection?
Secretary of State Steve Simon re-released a comprehensive 20-point plan this week for utilizing the $6.6 million of federal election security funding allocated to Minnesota through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The plan was diligently developed by a working group of election officials, cybersecurity experts, members or staff from all four legislative caucuses, and a variety of other stakeholders across the state to determine how HAVA funds will best be used to protect Minnesota voters from cybersecurity attacks.
On November 28, 2018, the working group released its itemized list of projects that the full $6.6 million would fund, some of which include:
- Modernizing MN’s Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS)
- Cybersecurity training for counties and cities
- Training election officials
- Expanding absentee and vote by mail options for voters with a disability
- Data core continuous data protection (CDP)
- Improving election software, hardware, cybersecurity, and website accessibility
- Automatic behavioral analysis to alert and block suspicious activity
- Post-election review initiatives
- Next generation anti-virus software
According to the Department of Homeland Security, Minnesota was one of 21 states targeted by foreign entities in the 2016 election, and the risk of foreign interference will only rise as the 2020 cycle approaches. Despite these risks and vulnerabilities, Minnesota remains the only state in the nation unable to access the federal security funding due to ambiguous and artificial delays by Senate Republicans.
Though full HAVA funding passed the Minnesota House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote of 105-23 in February, Senate Republicans refuse to approve adequate funding for critical cybersecurity projects. In re-issuing his “Investing in Democracy” 20-point plan, Secretary Simon demonstrates the importance of transparency and calls attention to the mounting need for improved voter protection in the state. Until Senate Republican leadership approves the full funding needed to tackle this serious issue, Minnesotans’ data privacy and the integrity of state elections will remain at risk.