The Wisconsin Elections Commission is moving ahead with plans to use a $7 million federal grant to update its security software, fill six new technology positions and train clerks throughout the state about best security practices during elections.
Approved by the Department of Administration in June, the commission’s plans call for software upgrades that will allow the commission to monitor the elections system, which has come under scrutiny recently after news surfaced that Russia had meddled in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
The state aid is part of $380 million that Congress approved in March under the Help America Vote Act, which in part will help improve election security.
Reid Magney, a public information officer for the Elections Commission, said it’s not clear yet how all the money will be spent in Wisconsin, but the commission will seek advice from election officials and the public about other ideas to ensure security with the primary election less than a month away.
An estimated maximum of $2.4 million will be spent on six information technology positions with contracts through 2022.
Technical upgrades will make it harder for malicious or inadvertent activity the sabotage the system, Magney said. One of these upgrades is multi-factor authentication, which means clerks need to use more than a username and password to log into the system.
Oftentimes that comes in the form of a code that users have to punch in to log on, but Magney said the commission is exploring other options because not all clerks have cell phones.
Magney said the funds also will attempt to train about 3,000 election officials and their staff members who use the WisVote system, which is the software for election administration. Another effort will allow the state Division of Enterprise Technology to get advanced spam email protection, a service which is already available to commission staff.