Some Texas counties behind schedule on mandatory election security assessments

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A new Texas law requires all counties to undergo an election security assessment ahead of the 2020 presidential election, but state data reveals not all counties have signed up.

The state’s county elections administrators have until the end of the year, a mere three weeks, to initiate the process and have a seven-month window to complete the test.

According to data from the Texas Secretary of State’s office, 59 counties have completes the security assessment, eight are in progress, and 119 are in the queue. That leaves 68 counties which have not begun the process.

“We want to make sure that we have the counties assessed as soon as possible, the remediation process is as far advanced as possible before the general election in 2020,” said Keith Ingram, director of the elections division of the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

“It is a stem to stern complete comprehensive look at election security, both cyber security as well as physical security measures,” Ingram explained.

Lawmakers passed House Bill 1421 this year to require the assessments to be conducted.

Potter County’s elections office serves as the cautionary example.

Shortly after completing the election security assessment last year, the county was hit with a ransomware attack, but held a primary election without a hitch because the county had implemented remediations that came out of the assessment.

“Because we had done that assessment, we were prepared for the ‘what if,'” Potter County’s elections administrator Melynn Huntley said.

“You don’t know what you don’t know, and when someone comes in and they actually look at everything, it was very eye-opening for us,” Huntley said. “It showed us where we had some vulnerabilities.”

“With what we were advised to do, along with some proactive measures that we are continuing to take, it has set us up to be in a great place for the primaries,” she added.

Ingram said the assessment also quells fears of elections tampering by foreign entities.

“People need to know that Texas is taking proactive steps to make sure that elections are secure and transparent and that they can have confidence in their election process,” he stated.

The federal government appropriated the remainder of the Help America Vote Act money which was created in 2002. According to Ingram, Texas got about $24.5 million of $380 million nationwide. The state has used that money to bolster election cybersecurity and physical security measures.

The president of the League of Women Voters of Texas encouraged counties to sign up for the assessment.

“I hope more counties hurry up and take advantage of it right now,” Grace Chimene said. “It’s very important that voters are confident that their counties are doing everything they can to have a safe and secure election for 2020.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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