MN Secretary of State testifies before Senate on election security

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon will testify on election security before a United States Senate committee Wednesday morning.

The hearing comes as election officials around the country scramble to beef up security at the polls. But in Minnesota, a big roadblock is stopping some important funding.

Five weeks ago, Simon held a news conference at his office in St. Paul, pleading with the Legislature to have a stand-alone bill to free up federal funding to help boost voter cyber security.

On Wednesday, he is joining other state leaders in Washington, D.C. testifying in front of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, which is co-chaired by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, about their current and future election security efforts. 

Simon has made it clear that improving election security is a top priority. Klobuchar opened the hearing by saying she is convinced Vladimir Putin is committed to trying to change our election results through hacking. 

Simon has previously said Minnesota was one of 21 states targeted by Russian hackers ahead of the 2016 election, although the state was not compromised. Cyber security experts monitor all the threats that come in against state systems, many of which reportedly originate from what appear to be Russian systems.

Simon said the threat grows, but so does our preparedness. 

“So, we know we have to be vigilant, as we were in 2016, but now we have a lot more information,” Simon said. “I think the good news is–the reason the glass is half full—is Minnesota and I believe every other state is in a far better position going into this election than the last election, even though we passed the test in the last election..

Congress did allocate federal money for states to boost their voting systems security, slating $6.5 million for Minnesota. The state Legislature threw the money into the broader spending bill, which Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed for other reasons, despite pleas by the secretary of state to put it forth as a separate funding package.

Lawmakers will revisit the issue in January when the new Legislature convenes.