States Seek More Money to Secure Elections After Russia Meddling

(Bloomberg) -- State election officials said they haven’t received as much federal funding as they need to secure their election systems even after U.S. intelligence officials concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 election and the federal government called on states to step up efforts to prevent hacking.

Officials from Minnesota and Vermont asked lawmakers for more money at a hearing Wednesday by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee in Washington.

"Our upgrades to equipment and cybersecurity will be an ongoing challenge for many states; the federal funding received will, regrettably, be insufficient to do all we want, or need,” said Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, who is president-elect of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

States are preparing for general elections in November when every House seat is up for grabs, along with a third of the Senate and many state and local contests.

Congress appropriated $380 million for the current fiscal year to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to help states improve election infrastructure. As of this week, 38 states have requested $250 million of the funds and $150 million has been distributed, said Rules panel chairman Roy Blunt of Missouri.

Russia attempted to hack into 21 U.S. states during the 2016 presidential election, according to the Department of Homeland Security. It’s "highly likely" that Russians at least scanned the electoral systems of all 50 states, Michael Daniel, who worked on cybersecurity in the Obama administration, told a separate Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said cybersecurity poses the "number one threat to the integrity of our elections." Simon, whose state was among the 21 targeted in 2016, said he wants to adopt Homeland Security recommendations on securing elections but that there’s not enough funding.

Simon said election security is a “race without a finish line” and that it takes focus and money to "stay one step ahead of the bad guys."

This year, 41 states are using voting systems that are at least a decade old, according to an analysis by Verified Voting and the Brennan Center for Justice in New York. Some of those states rely on electronic voting systems that produce no paper trail in the event of a malfunction.

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