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State Officials Call for Federal Funds to Bolster Election Security

Two secretaries of state, one in Louisiana and another in Connecticut, sounded an alarm this month for more federal funds to fend off expected foreign hacking in the upcoming 2020 elections.

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) and Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill (D), in remarks at an Election Assistance Commission (EAC)-hosted event, echoed bipartisan legislation calling on Congress to allocate more federal money to secure the upcoming elections, The Hill reported.

One proposed House-passed measure to require paper ballots and additional election funding, and another requiring candidates, campaign officials and family members notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of any influence by a foreign government, have languished in the Senate, despite the indirect advocacy of special counsel Robert Mueller and FBI director Christopher Wray. Both officials have all but guaranteed that foreign bad actors would again try to meddle in U.S. elections.

In recent Senate testimony, Mueller charged Moscow with working to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election “as we sit here.” And, Wray expects foreign bad actors to home in on the U.S. election infrastructure looking for voters’ personally identifiable information and to generally disrupt the electoral process.

Congress has previously allocated some $380 million to the states for the 2018 elections following Russian meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election. While Congressional Democrats want more federal funds apportioned to shore up election cybersecurity bulwarks for 2020, Republicans fear federal overreach into state election oversight.

“This is one of the fundamental operations of government," Merrill reportedly said. "You’re not going to privatize elections, and so it’s time we put some dollars behind what’s happening. I do think some funding needs to come from the federal level.”

Of the $380 million, Louisiana has seen $5.8 million and Connecticut $5.1 million, according to The Hill. “Resources are always helpful and necessary,” Ardoin reportedly said. “We all have the same expectation, which is a secure environment for our elections, and that every vote is accurately counted and everybody gets to participate who wishes to participate.”

Earlier this month, Shelby Pierson was named to oversee U.S. election security, tasked with keeping the intelligence community apprised of potential cyber threats. Some six weeks ago, the House passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act (SAFE Act) to again try to address foreign meddling into U.S. elections. The bill, which has not come up for a Senate floor vote, allocates $600 million for the EAC to help states enhance their security ahead of the 2020 elections.

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.