JACKSON, Miss. (WAPT) – Ever since the 2016 presidential election, the issue of foreign operatives and hackers manipulating the voting process has been a huge concern.
Hackers tried 200,000 times on Election Day to jam the polling place locator on the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said his office works year-round to identify and stop any potential problems.
“We have been meeting and giving cybersecurity information to our circuit clerks and our election commissioners in a lot of instances,” Hosemann said. “We’ve started dual authentication if they want to get into the statewide election management system.”
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is the only federal agency focused full time on elections, says states have only spent about 29% of the $380 million Congress allocated in spring 2018 for election security. Congress gave states five years to spend those funds. Eleven states, including Mississippi, still have at least one precinct that uses paperless voting equipment that does not provide a voter-verified paper ballot to allow for risk-limiting audits.
Hosemann said there’s an independent audit going on right now of every county. There have also been tests of the system from outside entities.
“We’ve had a review by Homeland Security. I’ve asked them to come to Mississippi and they did. We got very high marks from them. We’ve had independent groups come and try to penetrate the system. We were able to thwart all of those,” Hosemann said.
Thirty-nine counties have started using their allocations. Some used all of the funds and some are awaiting approval of the expenses.
The funds for Hinds County were rejected. The Secretary of State’s Office said Hinds County officials requested more than $176,000 — of the more than $320,000 that’s allocated for them for repaving entire parking lots at several polling places. Only the portion of a parking lot designated for the handicapped is eligible for funding, so Hinds County has submitted a corrected application.
Hosemann said with all the checks and balances, Mississippi is well-prepared and he doesn’t want anyone scared that their vote won’t be counted and will be stolen.
“We’re not connected to the internet for any of our voting, so there’s nobody who’s going to take your ballot,” Hosemann said. “If you go and cast it, it’s going to be counted.”
Hosemann advised residents not to take everything that’s said on social media as truth, because those are some of the tactics used to keep voter participation down.
“They try to drive you to where you don’t trust one or the other, or what not, so you don’t participate. If you don’t participate and cast your ballot, they win — the Russians win,” Hosemann said.
Hosemann wants voters to know that everything is being done to make sure the right to vote is protected.
“I spend a part of every day on cybersecurity,” Hosemann said.
The Aug. 6 primary election is for statewide, state district, legislative, county and county district offices. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.