Indiana, Michigan officials fighting against foreign hackers in future elections

NOW: Indiana, Michigan officials fighting against foreign hackers in future elections

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With election season approaching, election security is a major concern. 

It’s on the minds of voters like Tim Hanlon, who voted on Tuesday at the County City Building on Lafayette Boulevard. 

“If it were up to me all of it would be paper trail,” said Hanlon. 

And election security is also on the minds of the people who work the polls. 

“You know we even have concerns with this years election,” said Rita Glenn, St. Joseph County Circuit Clerk. 

States are now on high alert after Russia reportedly meddled in the last presidential election. President Donald Trump and the Kremlin dent claims of any foreign interference. 

But the other probe into 2016 showed, among other things, Russian operatives used social media to misinform and mislead voters. 

This is a serious issue for St. Joseph County Democrats and Republicans ahead of upcoming elections. 

“It’s certainly a concern right in this new day and age where we’ve got electronic voting machines we need to make sure that those are secure from outside influence,” said Jake Teshka, with the St. Joseph County Republican Party. 

“What’s to stop other foreign countries whether it be china or Russia or Iran from now trying to influence our state level elections,” said Wruble. “And if they’re able to do that will they then get to the point where they’ll want to interfere in local elections.”

“It’s a concern for me that any influence from another country should not be allowed,” said Hanlon. 

Officials in Indiana and Michigan would agree. 

In September, Michigan hired its first ever election security specialist. Jake Rollow, a state spokesperson, told ABC 57 News that the specialist makes sure the state’s working to get ahead of potential threat.

“She’s reviewing all of our systems,” said Rollow. “She’s learning all of the best practices that are used across the country to make sure we’re ready for future elections.”

While state legislators in Indiana are spending $10 million dollars to secure future elections. It’s broken down like this: 

  • $6 million to upgrade election equipment, 
  • $3 million to create intrusion detection systems,
  • And $1 million to develop a “just in case” emergency plan. 

According to Elkhart County Circuit Clerk Christopher Anderson, the county is not utilizing the $6 million. He wrote in an email to ABC 57 News that the county  moved forward and purchased new equipment in spring that has a paper ballot.

“It had always been the intent of Elkhart County to move back to a paper ballot so that the voter could verify their vote and we would have a backup if anything should happen to the electronic tabulation,” he wrote. 

But Glenn said she’s disappointed because St. Joseph County was left out of the $6 million allocation. 

“We’ve spent 2.7 million dollars and and it would’ve been nice to get about 1800 dollars each machine,” said Glenn. 

In 2018, St. Joseph County got more than $12,000 in federal dollars to add cameras that monitor the polls and where they are stored, according to the state. Elkhart County received more than $10,000 to make similar security improvements.

Although Glenn is disappointed she said she’s confident in the system in place. There’s a direct paper trail and none of the polling equipment connects to the internet. 

“Can there be human error, absolutely,” Glenn said. “Will there be, absolutely. Is there something we can do to prevent outside interference, we’re doing it to the max.”

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