“What A Time To Be In The Democracy Business”
At a North Loop forum on election security, Minnesota’s Secretary of State, Steve Simon, said he couldn’t guarantee that our elections system is 100% secure but said the state is actively minimizing the risks and he feels good about new safeguards in place.
U.S. intelligence agencies revealed that Minnesota was one of 21 states targeted by Russian-affiliated hackers before the 2016 election. They failed here, but managed to access millions of voter records and personal information in two states, Arizona and Illinois.
“Cybersecurity is a race without a finish line,” Simon said. “We have to stay one step ahead of the bad guys all the time. It’s a game without end, a competition without end, but I feel good where we are today.”
Simon was invited by the North Loop Neighborhood Association to speak at Modist Brewing as part of our efforts to keep the community engaged and informed.
Simon said the federal government has provided $6.6 million to Minnesota for elections security, which will be used to recode and re-secure databases while also hiring a cyber navigator who will work with cities, townships and counties to secure the system.
Minnesota still uses paper ballots, which may have played a role in thwarting foreign hackers, but Simon said it may never fully be known why their efforts failed here. “Low tech in this case is better than high tech,” he said.
Minnesota consistently ranks among the top states in voter turnout (best in the nation in 2016 and 2018). Simon believes there are three main factors for that: laws that make it easier to register and vote, a culture that encourages participation and a high confidence in the system.
Simon said citizens can do their part by being wary. “There are two ways an adversary could attack,” he said, “hack our infrastructure or hack our heads with misinformation or a disinformation campaign.” He said rather than blindly accepting the validity of online posts, we should be discriminating consumers of news.
Since taking office in 2014, his office has faced several challenges, particularly with the political turmoil of the past three or four years. “No one could’ve predicted this, what we have witnessed and been a part of,” he said, “the allegations of hacking and voter fraud.”
“What a time to be in the democracy business,” he said.
By Mike Binkley, North Loop Neighborhood Association