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How secure are our elections?

Braidy Powers
Braidy Powers

At the end of March, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon received a federal security clearance of “secret,” one of 20 state election officials nationwide with this clearance.

Simon and other officials were granted this clearance after Senate Intelligence Committee leaders said efforts to protect state and local elections from Russian cyberattacks in 2016 didn't go far enough, and they issued recommendations to safeguard against outside meddling this year.

While the Senate Committee reiterated that there was no evidence of any votes being changed when Russian agents targeted election systems in 21 states, members chided the current and former homeland security secretaries for not more strongly warning the public about past intrusions and for not doing enough to protect balloting this fall.

Minnesota was among the 21 states, but the intruders did not breach its Statewide Voter Registration System, a centralized database of registered voters.

Secretary Simon told the Associated Press that the hackers didn't really try to break in. He compared their actions with an auto thief casing a parking lot but for whatever reason not going in to steal a car.

Simon told reporters, "They didn't hack or attempt to hack us. ... They probed our defenses.”

While Minnesota's database contains sensitive personal information, Simon noted that it's not used to count votes.

The actual counting happens at the local level, and there are several checks and rechecks before the final results are certified. WTIP checked in with Cook County Auditor Braidy Powers to learn about those “checks and rechecks.”

Here’s Rhonda Silence with Auditor Powers.
 

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