The state is scheduled to receive nearly $8 million from a federal fund to improve the security of the voting process, but that money won’t be put to use before Tuesday’s primary election.
State election officials around the country are scheduled to receive a share of $380 million that Congress set aside for election security improvements. Indiana will get about $7.9 million of that fund.
“This is potentially enough to replace up to one-third of machines in the state that don’t produce a back-up paper ballot of a voting record,” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “If the state wanted to replace all of these systems, the state legislature or counties would need to make up the rest of what is needed.”
Indiana doesn’t know what they will do with the funds yet, said Ian Hauer, the secretary of state’s communications director. The office is looking at options for security and technology upgrades and election maintenance after the primary.
“Looking at the short-term, we will likely avoid changes to election equipment or processes for the 2018 elections since the primary is just a week away,” Hauer said. “We have already certified and tested this year’s voting machines, and election office personnel have been trained on existing systems.
Secretary of State Connie Lawson recently released a statement in which she said that state and local officials have taken steps to assure Hoosiers their ballots will be safely cast.
“We are committed to demonstrating that proper precautions are in place to secure the vote,” Lawson said in the statement. “Effective security demands thorough preparation, and thorough preparation only occurs when all parties involved are united in their communication, vigilance, and vision.”
Hauer said those security measures include keeping voting machines in a secure location between elections, testing and verifying the machines, training bi-partisan staff to monitor polling places and prohibiting counties from selling voting machines to non-government entities.
A coalition of former state election officials, intelligence officials and voting advocates recently sent a letter to states urging them to spend the federal money on five concrete upgrades. The upgrades include replacing paperless voting machines with a system that count a paper ballot, conducting robust post-election audits in federal elections, upgrading critical election system infrastructure and more.
Indiana’s voting equipment is not online and therefore not connected to the internet, Lawson noted in her statement, but the machines can still fail. Indiana is one of 13 states that does not have a paper back-up system for voting machines.
“It is far more difficult to detect and recover from software failures if you do not have a voter marked paper ballot to review,” Norden said. “Using these funds to make upgrades will not only shore up the infrastructure, but booster voter confidence.”
Concerns remains about the integrity of the voting process because of evidence that Russians interfered in the 2016 general election. In addition, Russian hacker broke into the Democratic National Committee’s computer system, releasing emails that also created controversy during the election.
The Washington Post has reported the CIA determined Russian hacking was conducted to boost now-President Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton during the presidential election.
Six Indiana counties used a voter registration software company in 2016 that news reports said were the focus of cyberattacks by a Russian intelligence unit.
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.