New Hampshire has requested about $3.1 million in newly available election security funding from the federal government.
Congress has set aside about $380 million in total to help states shore up their voting systems ahead of the 2018 elections.
Unlike a lot of other places, New Hampshire doesn’t use electronic voting machines, and voters still have to register in-person and on paper.
But the state does collect the information voters supply when they register in an online database. And Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan says much of the new funding will go toward keeping that as secure as possible.
“The voter database really is the only significant electronic system that we have that’s related to elections,” Scanlan said. “It’s important to keep the information in there that is supposed to be private and confidential, private and confidential.”
To that end, Scanlan said his office is, along with the Department of Information Technology and the Bureau of Emergency Management, evaluating a number of options. Initial ideas include: performing “stress-testing” on the database, installing software that uses artificial intelligence to detect unusual activity on the database and working with companies that specialize in tracking whether information is being leaked to the so-called “dark web” for illicit purposes.
Scanlan says there may be additional projects, and the state has until July 15 to send its plan for the funding to the federal government. He said it’s unclear when the funding will be available, but the goal is to enact any upgrades by the time voters start heading to the polls this fall.
In addition to working with state experts specializing in emergency planning and cybersecurity, Scanlan says the Secretary of State’s office also plans to work more closely with the federal government leading into this fall’s elections.
“We will be working with federal agencies,” Scanlan said. “We have one member of our staff that has obtained security clearance so that we can receive information that is coming down from the feds.”
This marks a shift in strategy from earlier this year, when state election officials expressed wariness of a possible “federalization of elections” and said they did not plan to seek cybersecurity help offered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Scanlan says the state still wants to ensure that it maintains independence in how it conducts its elections.
“We strongly believe that elections are the purview of the states and that states should run their own elections,” Scanlan said. “The concerns we’ve had in the past with the federal government is not necessarily their involvement but the way the involvement seems to have occurred. We just want to make sure that what they’re offering and what we might accept doesn’t somehow lead to a federalization of the election process.”