CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa’s top elections official will form a new working group with the goal of bolstering the cybersecurity around Iowa voting.
“With the past presidential election, with the dialogue that came out of that, we’ve had to be much more aggressive (on cybersecurity), but also to share more with you of what we’re doing so the voters have the full confidence in our elections system,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said during a Friday news conference during a training session for county auditors at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids.
Concern about the security of the nation’s elections has hit a peak since 2016 due to investigations into Russian attempts to affect the 2016 presidential election.
Matt Masterson, senior cybersecurity adviser with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, joined Pate at the news conference.
“From the Department of Homeland Security’s perspective, we’re taking this incredibly seriously,” he said. “Elections are fundamental to democracy, and this is a top priority for the department.
Pate said Iowa has not had any breaches or intrusions into its election systems.
“I’ve assured Iowans, and I will assure them again today, that our system is intact,” he said. “It has not been hacked. There are no foreign countries manipulating your votes or accessing your voter information.”
The new Iowa Election Cybersecurity Working Group will include representatives from the U.S. and Iowa Departments of Homeland Security, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, the Iowa National Guard, Iowa’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, county auditors and others.
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The group will be asked to provide Pate’s office with recommendations on how to further protect Iowa’s election systems.
Pate said he hopes the group will be up and running in two to three weeks.
While he said the work will be ongoing, a plan to be submitted to the federal government should be finished in 45 days.
“The information we’ve received to date clearly tell us we’re doing all the right things,” he said. “But the thing about it is we need to make sure that we’re consistent, that everybody has the same information and the same kind of resources, and then we have to really strengthen our human side of the equation.”
“The big thing we’re talking about with our (county) auditors,” Pate said, “is the human factor because we’re upgrading technology, but you’ve got to make sure the staffs are up to speed on how those technologies work and to make sure we don’t let our guard down at all.”
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