Michigan election equipment new and systems more secure in 2018

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said new election equipment and millions of dollars worth of federal election security grants will help to further protect the state’s elections systems this fall.

With the statewide primary election being held in August, residents should be aware that for the first time in 12 years, every voter will be using new election equipment designed with added security measures including optical-scan ballot tabulators, accessible features for voters with disabilities as well as upgraded election-management and reporting software.

In Oakland County, voters will be using election equipment supplied by Hart Intercivic, a Texas-based company that signed a 10-year contract with the county and 10 other counties around the state in 2017.

“Most importantly, every voter across Michigan still will use a good, old-fashioned paper ballot to mark their choices,” said Johnson. “Then they’ll feed the ballot into a new next-generation voting machine. Buying all new election equipment isn’t all we’ve done to safeguard our election system.”

Other added security measures included the state’s acceptance of $11.2 million in federal election security grants, which will improve election systems statewide and strengthen them against attacks.

In addition, required cybersecurity training has been added to the local clerk education programs.

Some of the new upgrades include:

• $40 million worth of next-generation voting equipment: The equipment offers added security features over the older systems, including stronger multi-factor access controls, advanced data encryption and better physical security of tabulator access points with locks and seals. Tabulators are not connected to the internet.

• $11.2 million in election security grants: Michigan Bureau of Elections staff is finalizing how the money will be spent, but the plan will include a strong focus on security assessment, including comprehensive tests and other cybersecurity measures at the state, county and local level. The money is in addition to the extensive cybersecurity efforts already employed by the State of Michigan, which monitors systems for suspicious activity and protects against cyberattacks.

• An upgraded Qualified Voter File system: The system is used by the bureau of elections and local clerks to maintain the state’s registered voter list and other election-related data. Besides being an improved, modern system that will help clerks perform their work more efficiently and effectively, the new system features enhanced security built in.

• Strengthened relations with state and federal law-enforcement and homeland-security agencies: The bureau of elections can report any suspicious activity it detects, cyber or otherwise, with the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center, which shares threat information among local, state and federal agencies, including the FBI, Michigan State Police, Michigan National Guard and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

• Expanded cybersecurity training for local election officials: Bureau of elections staff are now implementing a continuous multi-course training curriculum for clerks on cybersecurity best practices.

• Post-election audits that now include ballot validation: The bureau of elections and county clerks now include ballot validation in the post-election audit process. After this November’s general election, ballot tabulation validation will be completed for the first time for a statewide election, involving every county with some randomly selected precincts. This process will verify that the voting machines properly tabulated ballots.

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