Nevada targets $4.3M in US grants to safeguard voter rolls
By SCOTT SONNER
Aug. 21, 2018
RENO, Nev. (AP) — The state of Nevada is spending nearly $4.3 million in federal grants to shore up its election systems, with the bulk of the money targeted for safeguarding voter registration rolls and lesser amounts to tighten cybersecurity and improve communication between county and state election officers.
The money is included in a report the U.S. Election Assistance Commission released Tuesday showing how states plan to spend $380 million allocated by Congress last spring to strengthen voting systems amid ongoing threats from Russia and others under the Help America Vote Act.
The largest chunk nationally — roughly 36 percent — is being spent to improve cybersecurity in 41 states and territories.
Nevada plans to use $220,440 for that purpose, about 5 percent of its grant total, including evaluation of state and local data and system management, according to state election officials.
"In addition to the proactive measures, the Secretary of State will invest in strategic alliance for retroactive review of systems to determine previous penetration activity or attempts and dormant files detection," according to a summary of the Nevada Secretary of State's Office's election security grant budget. It will include $45,000 to establish formal procedures for training local election officials with an emphasis on "cybersecurity awareness."
More than a quarter of the money nationally will be used to buy new voting equipment in 33 states and territories. But all of Nevada's local election officials purchased new voting equipment in 2017 so the state was able to count part of that expense toward the 5 percent in matching funds required to receive the federal grant for other purposes.
Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske was unavailable for comment on Tuesday, her spokeswoman Jennifer Russell said.
But a copy of the grant summary shows two-thirds of Nevada's grant, $2.8 million, will go toward improvements in voter registration systems and management, including aligning the current web-based system "with modern security concerns, such as multi-factor authentication."
"Local election officials will undergo an evaluation and training before the issuance of access credentials."
The office is adding a full-time position to focus on improving data security to ensure maintenance at the local level in accordance with state and federal requirements.
"This is especially helpful as Nevada utilizes a bottom-up system where local election officials manage and maintain a county voter registration system that feeds batch data into the statewide system" — a system model that raises data and security concerns, according to the grant summary. "This position will significantly mitigate these concerns through analysis and process review."
The state also plans to develop a single point of access for registered voters to access and manage their registration record. Access currently is spread across a variety of different systems.
"This voter information portal directly contributes to the security and improvement of elections through increased transparency of voter registration information — the basis for a clean and secure election," the grant summary said.
About $718,000 planned for election auditing will include the addition of a full-time position dedicated to improving administration through local election audits.
"A majority of Nevada's local election officials are part-time election administrators and the improvement of defined and well-rounded state guidance will enhance the integrity and uniformity at the local level," the office said.