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Mississippi receives $4.5 million for election security

Photo courtesy of TeleSouth Communications Inc.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has announced that Mississippi will receive about $4.5 million in federal “Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds” in the next several months to improve election security and provide updates to voting areas across the state.

“The sum allocated to voting and elections will help our counties facilitate upgrades to voting machines and other improvements at precincts,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said.  “I am also asking every local election official to ensure every polling place is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The State is matching 5% of the HAVA grant which totals $224,117 and will be met through existing state funds.

Since April, the state has been working with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency overseeing distribution, to facilitate the transfer of the HAVA funds.  The state will use part of the funds to continue efforts to secure the Statewide Elections Management System (SEMS).  Counties will be allocated available funds based on voting age population.

According to Hosemann, local election officials — who run elections in Mississippi — will decide how best to employ money received.  They will then submit expenditures to the Secretary of State’s Office, which will reimburse counties for approved expenses.  Expenditures are limited to items and activities which will improve elections, including the purchase of new voting machines or voting equipment, training for post-election procedures, cybersecurity audits, enhancement of a county’s network, and disability access at precincts.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State’s Office continues to work on election cybersecurity initiatives.

“No database is infallible, but we have dedicated all our efforts to making sure our voter registration system is secure,” Secretary Hosemann said. “Our voting machines are not connected to the internet.  Voters should feel confident Mississippi is doing all it conceivably can to protect the integrity of each and every ballot cast.”

In April, the Agency engaged the Mississippi National Guard for an external penetration test of SEMS.  This test is the latest in a series of external and internal penetration tests of SEMS since before the 2016 Presidential Election.

“We look forward to continuing and furthering this partnership with the Mississippi National Guard, and appreciate their expertise and assistance,” Secretary Hosemann said.

Additionally, SEMS is currently undergoing a Cyber Resilience Review (CRR) by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is expected to be complete in the next several months.  Secretary Hosemann met with Homeland Security officials in Washington, D.C., and has applied and been granted security clearance related to election information.

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