Government

Iowa lands $4.6 million for improvements to voting, election security

(from left) Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and Senior Cybersecurity Advisor for the US Department of Homeland Security Matt Masterson hold a press conference on an election cybersecurity initiative at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 4, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
(from left) Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and Senior Cybersecurity Advisor for the US Department of Homeland Security Matt Masterson hold a press conference on an election cybersecurity initiative at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 4, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Iowa has been awarded $4.6 million in Help America Vote Act funds to implement election security and other measures, some before the 2018 elections.

“Frankly, cybersecurity is a race without a finish line, and Iowa intends to lead in that race,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said during a conference call Tuesday with officials of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The Iowa Legislature appropriated a 5 percent match of $230,404 from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund to land the grant, which was part of the $380 million Congress appropriated. It was the first new appropriation of HAVA funds since 2010.

“This infusion comes as the 2018 midterm election approaches and the nation focuses on ways to ensure that elections are more secure, accessible and efficient than at any other time in our nation’s history,” said Christy McCormick, the commission’s vice chair. Not surprisingly, she said, about two-thirds of the funds will be used by states to invest in new voting equipment and to enhance cybersecurity protection.

Pate called the federal funds significant and vital for improving how elections are conducted and ensuring their security.

“When we look at our operating budget, it’s under $2 million for elections,” he said. Although the Legislature made a multiyear appropriation for improvements to the voter registration database, “HAVA money allows us to accelerate it, getting it done now. That’s a big plus,” Pate said.

In addition, the secretary of state has formed an Elections Cyber Working Group. It includes the state’s chief information officer and Homeland Security, Iowa Army National Guard Cyber Ops, county auditors and county IT staffs to make recommendations on securing elections.

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“We talk so much about the technological side, (but) it’s vital that we build a human firewall that is just as robust as technological one,” Pate said.

That’s why almost 60 percent of the HAVA money has been committed to benefiting the counties for improvements. That includes a two-factor ID requirement for access to the voter registration database and improving cybersecurity training, which will become mandatory for county-level staffers who have access to the database.

To read more about what the secretary of state is doing and has planned to improve voting and election security, visit eac.gov/havadocuments/IA_Narrative_Budget.pdf

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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