Minnesota Secretary Of State - Secretary Simon Announces New Steps To Enhance Election Cybersecurity
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Secretary Simon Announces New Steps To Enhance Election Cybersecurity

October 15, 2018

The Office of the Secretary of State will be working with Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program to take additional steps to enhance and harden Minnesota’s election cybersecurity.

SAINT PAUL - Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon today announced the Office of the Secretary of State will be working with Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program to take additional steps to enhance and harden Minnesota’s election cybersecurity in advance of the 2018 General Election.

“Outside forces are targeting for attack our instruments of democracy,” said Secretary Simon. “In Minnesota, the stakes are particularly high because we are the #1 state in voter turnout – with a total turnout of 74.7% of eligible voters casting ballots in 2016. With the 2018 election rapidly approaching, I am grateful to Microsoft for working with my office to enhance and harden our election cybersecurity ahead of the 2018 General Election. This is one of many steps my office has taken to ensure that Minnesota is more prepared than ever before to confront outside threats to our elections.”

“We’ve seen attempts by nation-states to target and exploit key building blocks of our democratic system, undermining people’s confidence in the democratic process,” said Tom Burt, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Customer Security & Trust. “That’s why steps to secure and harden election processes, such as those the Secretary of State is taking, are so important. And that’s why we’re working together as part of our Defending Democracy Program to take concrete action to safeguard electoral processes.”

Since Congress allocated more than $6.6 million in Help American Vote Act (HAVA) funds to Minnesota in March, Secretary Simon has been working with election officials, legislators, and other stakeholders to determine the best use for these federal funds. Unfortunately, because of political wrangling between legislative leaders and the Governor, Minnesota is the only state in the country that cannot spend its HAVA election security funds on the 2018 Midterm Election. Despite the absence of these federal funds, Secretary Simon has forged ahead, finding new ways to increase Minnesota’s election cybersecurity program and ensure that Minnesota’s best-in-the-nation elections are secure.

“Together, Secretary Simon and Microsoft are helping defend Minnesotan voters against cyber threats,” said Adam Ambrogi, Director of the Elections Program at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation that supports efforts to modernize election administration. “While it’s clear that more needs to be done by federal, state, and local governments to identify and rebuff threats to the voting system, the work in Minnesota is an important example of how election officials are ramping up their response to emerging threats and ensuring voters have a system worthy of trust.”

In addition to today’s announcement about the Microsoft Defending Democracy Program, Secretary Simon has launched the following election cybersecurity initiatives since January 2018: Made $7 million in grants to county and municipal elections officials for equipment upgrades and e-pollbooks

  • Worked with federal officials to conduct Risk and Vulnerability Assessment of Minnesota’s elections systems
  • Worked with federal officials to conduct Cyber Resilience Review
  • Obtained “Secret” clearance for enhanced information sharing with intelligence officials
  • Launched an intrusion protection system (IPS) to protect OSS from malicious code
  • Instituted multi-factor authentication for all users of the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) and elections staff

These initiatives build on an existing panoply of election integrity practices, including a rigorous post-election review. During the post-election review process, precincts are randomly selected for review at the county-level based on rules set forth under Minnesota Statute 206.89. Post-election reviews in 2018 are mandated for the election for both U.S. Senate elections, each U.S. Representative, and Governor. Each county’s post-election review is open to the public. Dates and locations are available here.

Go to mnvotes.org for more information about election security, to check your voter registration, order an absentee ballot or find your polling place. Early voting is underway in all counties. Election Day is Tuesday, November 6, 2018.