2018-06-07 / News

State of Michigan upgrades election security for 2018

By Ben Gagnon
810-452-2661 * bgagnon@mihomepaper.com

LANSING — local clerks finalize ballots for the statewide primary, the State of Michigan has made strides As to update its election security systems.

In a demonstration held last October, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson detailed how new voting equipment, $11 million in new federal security grants and the extensive preparations her office has made will better protect Michigan’s elections system for the 2018 election cycle.

“Most importantly, every voter across Michigan still will use a good, old-fashioned paper ballot to mark their choices,” Johnson said three weeks before the August primary ballots will be sent out. “Then they’ll feed the ballot into a new next-generation voting machine designed with security in mind.”

In addition, the Aug. 7 primary will be the first statewide election in which every city and township will use all new voting equipment that includes optical-scan ballot tabulators, accessible voting devices for voters with disabilities and election-management and reporting software.

“We carefully reviewed and improved our systems, and we’ll be putting $11 million of federal security grants toward further strengthening them against attack,” Johnson said. “Plus, we’re adding required cybersecurity training to our local clerk education programs.”

Among the new upgrades is next-generation voting equipment that offers added security features over the older systems, including stronger multi-factor access controls, advanced data encryption and better physical security of tabulator access points with locks and seals. The tabulators are not connected to the internet.

The state paid for the equipment with $10 million that Johnson pushed the state legislature to approve and $30 million in federal money that Johnson and her predecessor saved for more than a decade. Cities and townships have had no upfront costs for the new equipment.

Michigan was one of the only states that saved a substantial amount of federal funds to assist with the purchase of the next-generation voting systems, and one of the only states able to implement new voting systems statewide for use in the 2018 election cycle.

The Bureau of Elections staff is finalizing how election security grants will be spent, but the plan will include a strong focus on security assessment – including comprehensive tests and other cybersecurity measures at the state, county and local level. The money is in addition to the extensive cybersecurity efforts already employed by the State of Michigan, which constantly monitors systems for suspicious activity and protects against cyberattacks.

Other election security efforts made by the state include strengthened relations with state and federal law-enforcement and homeland security agencies; an upgraded Qualified Voter File system; expanded cybersecurity training for local election officials; and post-election audits that now include ballot validation.

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