Minnesota GOP shrugs at election security: People are 'hacked all the time'


Republicans in Minnesota are refusing to accept federal funds that would help secure the state's voting systems.

GOP state legislators in Minnesota are refusing to allocate federal money to combat election hacking because "people are being hacked all the time."

In the wake of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Congress appropriated $380 million to the states to increase the security of elections. However, Minnesota requires that the Legislature must vote to accept the money. It remains the only state in the country that hasn't accepted this federal funding, which amounts to $6.6 million.

Inexplicably, the Republican majority in the state Senate has only authorized the allocation of $1.5 million, even though Minnesota was one of 21 states targeted by hackers during the 2016 election.

The person most responsible for blocking those funds is Minnesota's former secretary of state, Mary Kiffmeyer, who once served as the state's top elections official and was responsible for election security.

Kiffmeyer, who now chairs the Senate's committee on elections, would rather focus on the imaginary threat of in-person voter fraud than deal with the very real threat of hackers infiltrating her state's election systems. She has blithely dismissed concerns about election security.

"You’re being hacked all the time, I am," she said. "This is no big thing."

Equating the non-political hacking of individual computer users with a widespread attack on the integrity of a state's election system is absurd. And Kiffmeyer knows it. However, she and her fellow Republicans are holding election security funding hostage to force Minnesota to become more restrictive about voting. That's because Kiffmeyer believes the real problem with voting is that Minnesota needs voter ID.

Of course, there is no evidence that in-person voter fraud — where individuals who are not eligible to vote do so anyway — is a real threat. Indeed, it's entirely a myth. People aren't putting on disguises and voting twice, as Trump famously claimed. People also aren't impersonating other people in order to vote in their name. Studies show that the need for voter ID is "virtually non-existent."

Kiffmeyer also claims that she and other Republicans need to drag their feet because she doesn't have enough information about how the money would be used. That's simply not true.

Minnesota's current secretary of state, Democrat Steve Simon, has a detailed plan for what he'd do with that federal money, including cybersecurity training for counties and cities, modernizing the state's aging voter registration system, and monitoring state databases in real time to catch suspicious events right away.

By law, Minnesota's legislative session must end by May 20, 2019, though it is possible for the governor to call a special session. Legislators don't return to work until the beginning of 2020, by which point it will be far too late to effectively use the federal funds to help secure Minnesota's elections.

But the Minnesota GOP would rather play politics than ensure the state successfully combats cyber-intrusions in the 2020 elections.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.