Utah receiving $4 million in federal funds to improve election security

The federal government is awarding Utah more than $4 million to purchase new voting equipment and update the state’s voter registration systems. 

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission is awarding Utah $4.1 million to improve election security in the state ahead of the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections. That money will be combined with $205,00 in matching funds from the state for a total spend of $4.3 million.

According to a preliminary plan for the funds submitted to the UEAC and shared with UtahPolicy.com, state elections officials are proposing $1.9 million to help counties purchase new voting equipment. The last time Utah bought new voting machines was 2005. At least 20 of the state’s 29 counties are expected to purchase new voting equipment this year. Some counties already have obtained the new machines and used it during the primary elections earlier this month. The new machines will have extra security features, including paper ballots.

The funding will be allocated to counties based on the number of active voters in each county and total votes cast during the 2016 election.

The remaining money from the feds will go toward upgrading the state’s voter registration systems and increased security for election systems. Officials propose using $2.1 million to improve the voter registration system, including enhanced security. Those improvements should be in place by the end of 2022.

The state has already implemented more robust digital security ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, but the plan submitted to the feds sets aside $300,000 to beef up online security and implement a statewide response in case of an attack on Utah’s voter systems. The final plan will be in place by the end of 2020.

State elections officials say their proposal could change prior to final approval, but the $4.1 million has already been allocated and will not be altered.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox says Utah is fending off up to one billion intrusion attempts on the state’s election systems per day. That number increased dramatically after Mitt Romney jumped into the U.S. Senate race earlier this year. Since that happened, state elections officials have been working with Homeland Security and other federal agencies to make sure the state’s election systems could withstand an attack.

A recent Morning Consult survey found 51% of Americans believe state and local officials, as well as political campaigns,  are not prepared to deal with election-related cyber threats.