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Vermont official calls for sustained election security money


The Associated Press
Saturday, July 27, 2019

MONTPELIER — Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said states have made great progress in protecting their election systems, but they need more help.

The recent death of a bill in Congress that would have bolstered election security systems puts more pressure on states to prevent cyberattacks from Russia. Condos, a Democrat, said there is an ongoing debate among his colleagues about what role the federal government should play in helping ensure elections remain secure. And while communication has improved among state, local and federal officials, and more resources are available, that’s not enough, Condos said.

“We cannot survive having a lump sum of money once every 10 to 15 years,” Condos said Friday. “We need ongoing sustainable funding in order to maintain this battle against bad actors like the Russians.”

Last August, Vermont’s online voter registration system successfully defended itself against a series of attempted cyber intrusions that were described in the Senate Intelligence report that was released Thursday.

“There is a gratification and a sense of relief,” Condos said of his system successfully defending itself. “But there is also a concern going forward, ‘Oh my god, what are we going to face next?’ ”

State and municipal election officials want to replace aging or outdated equipment before the 2020 election, but many have said they lack the money. In some states, recent legislative sessions produced little progress.

The issue took on greater urgency this week in Washington as former special counsel Robert Mueller bluntly told lawmakers about Russian meddling in American elections: “They’re doing it as we sit here.” Democrats passed a $775 million spending measure to funnel more money to states for election security, but Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the bill. The Kentucky senator said the federal government is already doing enough to shore up voting systems and there’s no need to spend an additional sum of money that size.