Herald-Whig

Not all WCIL counties on board with election cyber security upgrades

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 16, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Sep. 16, 2018 10:44 am

QUINCY -- The state of Illinois is working to beef up voter security through its Cyber Navigator Program, a program that will require at least half of the $13.9 million in federal funding the state received for election upgrades.

The program, which is still being finalized, will provide training and grants to local election officials. The state will conduct risk assessments of each participating county to ensure that clerks are using best practices, and the program will also put all participating counties on a centralized, more secure internet network.

The program is a reaction to Russian hacking in the 2016 election, which gave hackers access to 76,000 active Illinois voter registrations. As the state works to coordinate the logistics, some West Central Illinois counties are split on its value.

"We've done all the paperwork we can at this point to be a part of it," said Adams County Clerk Chuck Venvertloh. "We're learning as we go and doing everything we can to stay current."

Hancock County Clerk Kerry Asbridge has a different take on cybersecurity.

"Every time you put more computer systems together, you get less security," Asbridge said. "Some technology makes the process much better, but the most secure way would be not having an internet connection to the data."

Brown County Clerk Judy Ham said Brown County has done all it can so far to participate in the program.

"It's very important," she said. "We don't want anyone swaying the elections."

Deputy Pike County Clerk Dena Stinebaker said the office is not currently working to participate in the program because Pike County Clerk Donnie Apps is retiring. Stinebaker said she is not sure how Apps' successor will want to proceed once the program is established.

NBC News reported last week that only about 25 percent of Illinois' more than 100 voting districts and 10,000 precincts are fully signed on to the Cyber Navigation Program, according to Illinois State Board of Elections IT Director Matt Emmons.

"Nobody in this job would ever give you a 100 percent guarantee about anything," said Emmons, "but I will tell you we are in a much better position than we were in 2016 -- both internally, and I believe, as a country."

Many Illinois election officials were hoping to receive funding to replace aging voting machines, some of which were purchased after the passage of the federal Help America Vote Act in 2002. State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said the state still hopes for further funding down the line for voting machines, noting that "this year's allotment was pretty small."

Venvertloh said he had hoped to upgrade Adams County voting machines, but he recognizes that cyber security is currently the top priority.

"It's important that everyone, from the smallest county to Cook County do this," Venvertloh said. "Otherwise nobody will trust the process."

 

The Associated Press ?contributed to this report.