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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Federal Grant Helps Bolster Montana Election Security

Election sign reading 'polling place' on a door at a Missoula polling place.
Josh Burnham
Montana Public Radio
Election sign in a Montana polling place

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton says the state will replace its aging voter registration system and upgrade election security with a $3 million federal grant.

On Wednesday, Stapleton released his office’s plan for how the state will spend money it’s receiving under the federal Help America Vote Act, and a 5 percent state match.

Just over $2 million of the grant is going towards replacing the state’s aging computer voter registration system.

In a letter to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Stapleton says a new system to organize voter registration information hasn’t been chosen yet, but his office is gathering input from counties on potential replacements.

The Secretary of State’s Office also plans on using $750,000 to help counties replace aging equipment and election systems. According to Stapleton’s letter, this subgrant program will require a 50 percent match from counties.

The state’s HAVA grant plan reserves $250,000 for election security. According to Stapleton, this money will be used to fund cybersecurity training for state and county elections staff, developing and upgrading state and county elections IT security systems, and a staff position on election security and management.

Montana’s grant budget also notes that the state is partnering with the Department of Homeland Secretary and the Montana National Guard to run election systems secretary tests.

Montana’s outline for the grant money aligns with the plans of other states around the country.

According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, states are tending to use the largest portions of their grants to improve election cybersecurity and buy new voting equipment.

National concern about election security has risen since 2016. The head of Homeland Security said this July that Russian government cyber actors sought vulnerabilities and access to U.S. elections.

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton has said Montana’s election system perimeter was probed during the 2016 election cycle, but was not hacked or breeched.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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