By Brynna Sentel
INDIANAPOLIS—By the next election, one in 10 direct recording electronic (DREs) voting machines will have a small black box attached to them that will let voters see a printout of their ballot, providing a paper trial that can be used in post-election audits.
Secretary of State Connie Lawson held one-on-one interviews with reporters to discuss the new voting equipment as well as the other steps her office is taking to assure Hoosiers that every ballot cast in an election will be accurately counted.
“I still believe that the most important concern for us is voter confidence,” Lawson said Wednesday. “We want voters to know that the vote they cast is counted the way it was cast and that elections are safe and secure.”
Secretary of State Connie Lawson demonstrates how the Voter Verified Paper Trail works with the Direct-Recording Electronic Machines. Photo by Brynna Sentel, The StatehouseFile.com
Lawson will go to the State Budget Committee Friday to ask for the release of $10 million that had been budgeted during the legislative session for election security. The committee is meeting at Purdue University.
“There were so many priorities this last budget cycle,” Lawson said. “Honestly, I felt very fortunate that our original $10 million request, and that’s what it was when the session began, stayed the same and did not change.”
Of those funds, $6 million will be used for voter verified paper trails (VVPT), which will provide a hard copy of how the voter cast a ballot and allow for post-election audits. The devices attach to electronic voting machines and cost about $1,800 each.
Lawson has worked with the General Assembly to provide funding to ensure that 10 percent of the voting machines have the paper trail attachment, a number that provides a good sample for a post-election audit.
“We simply could not afford to buy voter verified paper trail for every direct recording electronic machine that is being used right now but it was a start,” Lawson said. A pilot program will be run in four counties—Hamilton, Boone, Hendricks and Bartholomew—to test the technology.
Funding will also be used alongside the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds the state received last year for the use of FireEye, a type of cybersecurity that will monitor internet traffic accessing websites and databases. This program consists of weeding out phishing campaigns, such as those which led to data breaches in Illinois and one county in Arizona in 2016.
“We are very excited about having this partnership with FireEye. We will not only have detection but also prevention,” she said.
Seven Indiana counties will begin to pilot FireEye beginning on Oct. 1 and the 40-month contract will carry them through the 2020 election.
The remaining $4 million of the one-time appropriation will be used to beef up cyber security, she said. This could be through training or by providing funding to the Ball State University’s Voting System Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP), which certifies election equipment, or by funding Indiana University’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research (CACR) which assists in election-specific incident response plans.
Other voter security measures include limiting access to voter registration systems by requiring a multifactor authentication protocol for county election offices and extra filters, such as Cloudflare, to prevent distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks on local election websites.
“Our priority, because of where the breach was, has been to shore up our data system,” Lawson said, referring to the Illinois and Arizona incidents.
The state has also made the decision to move all voter registration system data to a private host provider to improve security.
They have also received help from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which has conducted risk and vulnerability testing on the statewide voter registration system. The agency also performs weekly cyber scanning to ensure vulnerabilities are taken care of.
Lawson noted that it would be difficult for hackers to get into voting systems and change ballots because voting machines aren’t connected to the internet. Measures have also been taken to make sure the equipment isn’t tampered with by locking machines in secure locations with video surveillance.
“I think we have done everything that we know we should do so I feel like our systems are safe,” Lawson said. “I want our voters to believe that our machines are safe. It would be virtually impossible for someone to hack in and change a vote.”
Brynna Sentel is a reporter at TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalists.