While the state elections board unveils details about its Cyber Navigator Program to help local election officials secure cyberspace, some county clerks are worried about the security of aging voting machines.

The Illinois State Board of Elections held a public hearing Wednesday outlining its plan to offer up a central network for local elections officials for improved cybersecurity. The plan includes hiring 9 cyber navigators that will go around the state assessing vulnerabilities in the 108 different local election jurisdictions.

While acknowledging some smaller jurisdictions can definitely use the help, Logan County Clerk Sally Turner said one of her chief concerns is voting machines.

“It’s really getting old and if your county doesn’t have a lot of money, that makes it difficult to be able to go out and purchase election equipment and that’s something we’re all needing very quickly,” Turner said.

Turner said her county has a great information technology staff on hand, but the electronic voting machines they bought in 2002 are becoming outdated.

ISBE Executive Director Steve Sandvoss said county clerks shouldn’t expect to see such funds anytime soon.

“So unless the legislature comes up with a significant amount of money or the federal government comes up with another grant far larger than this, I don’t see money available in the near future for replacing voting machines,” Sandvoss said.

ISBE is getting $13.2 million in federal funds for election security.

Turner said she’s thankful money will be made available to help with cyber security issues on a local level.

“But we’re curious as to when they freeze that second half, when we’ll be able to utilize some of that money,” Turner said.

Half of the federal funds will be for the local election jurisdictions' digital security elements.

“We have our own cyber security needs that we’re going to hold back some money to take care of and then whatever is left over I plan to make available to election authorities,” Sandvoss said. “But we don’t have a specific amount.”

An ISBE voter database was hacked in 2016, exposing data on more than 70,000 voters.

Sandvoss said there are other groups, such as the disabled community, hoping to get access to some of those funds.

“There’s plenty of demand, unfortunately not a whole lot of supply,” Sandvoss said.

ISBE’s Cyber Navigator program will now go to the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules, where there will be an additional 45-day public comment period. While some of the aspects for cyber security may be in place for November’s midterm elections, officials don’t expect the entirety of the program to be fully up and running until the 2020 elections.

###

Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for INN. Bishop has years of award winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “The Council Roundup,” as well as “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.

Recommended for you