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House OKs measure to appropriate federal funds for election security

Rep. Michael Nelson describes his bill HF14, which would appropriate funds to the secretary of state to support efforts to secure elections infrastructure against cybersecurity threats, during floor debate Feb. 21. Photo by Paul Battaglia

House lawmakers passed a measure Thursday that would free up millions in federal grant funds targeted at protecting Minnesota’s election systems from bad actors.

HF14, sponsored by Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park), would retroactively credit state expenditures on election security efforts to meet a required 5 percent state match to free up nearly $6.6 million in federal Help America Vote Act grant funds.

Passed by a 105-23 vote, the bill now goes the Senate, where Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) is the sponsor.

HAVA appropriations bill debated on House Floor 2/21/19

Congress passed the grant funds as part of a larger appropriations bill in March 2018 in an effort to thwart future cyberattacks on election infrastructure. Minnesota was the only state that did not claim those grant dollars ahead of the 2018 election after former Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the appropriation as part of a larger bill.

Secretary of State Steve Simon said the funds will be used on efforts to modernize, secure and update Minnesota’s Statewide Voter Registration System.

Russian hackers targeted the election systems of 21 states before the 2016 election — including Minnesota. Simon has said that those hackers were unsuccessful in their attempts to access Minnesota’s central voter registration database.

“It’s a permission slip for the secretary of state to spend this money,” Nelson said. “And we should, to protect the citizens of our state and the rights of our citizens to have a clean vote.”


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