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Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson talks election cybersecurity with state officials

By Eric DuVall
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson talks election cybersecurity with state officials
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson listens during a meeting in the Oval Office in July. Johnson held a conference call with election officials in all 50 states to discuss cybersecurity on Election Day. Pool photo by Dennis Brack/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson held a conference call with election officials from all 50 states this week to discuss enhancing electronic security measures at polling places.

The Department of Homeland Security is examining whether to confer "critical infrastructure" status on polling places, requiring the same level of electronic security as the nation's power grid and financial institutions.

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Johnson has pointed out U.S. voting machines have not had a security overhaul since they were mandated under the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which required all states to switch to electronic balloting.

The particulars, however, have been left up to individual states because the Constitution delineates the responsibility for administering elections to states and not the federal government. That has led to 50 different systems and nearly 9,000 government jurisdictions that have a hand in holding a national presidential election.

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On the call, Johnson alerted election officials to best practices to help avoid instances of fraud, though Voice of America points out the use of electronic voting machines that tabulate and report results using internal fax and email portals make them inherently susceptible to tampering if someone wanted to try hard enough.

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One method becoming more common is to use machines that also create a paper trail that can be tracked and audited for irregularities. About three-quarters of Americans will use machines that create a paper trail and, in 26 states, election workers are required by law to perform random audits of those machines to check for instances of fraud or machine malfunction.

Johnson told state workers the Department of Homeland Security would help perform those random audits to improve security measures.

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