Star News: Simon addresses cyber security in elections
Sherburne County raises issue of when to hold elections for township positions
by Joni Astrup
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon paid a visit to Sherburne County last week.
The visit was part of Simon’s fourth 87-county tour since taking office. He traveled to all of Minnesota’s counties in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
He met Thursday, April 5, with Sherburne County Auditor-Treasurer Diane Arnold and her staff at the county government center in Elk River.
Arnold thanked him for coming to Sherburne County and meeting with them.
They discussed a number of election-related issues including cyber security.
Simon said his office fields a lot of questions about cyber security and elections.
He and Arnold both said it’s something they take very seriously.
Simon has created a cyber security team, hired an outside consultant to test office vulnerabilities and worked with partners in other agencies including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to minimize the chance of any intrusion.
“It’s an issue. It’s here to stay,” he said.
To help address the issue, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is expected to allocate nearly $7 million to Minnesota as a result of the federal omnibus appropriation signed into law last month.
Minnesota was one of 21 states whose voter registration systems were targeted in 2016 by a foreign entity, Simon said in an earlier statement.
“Because we have proactively enhanced our cyber-defenses, that foreign actor did not breach our system. Based on intelligence briefings I have received, we expect them, and others, to try again in 2018,” he said.
Presidential primary, township elections also discussed
On other matters, he brought up the 2020 presidential primary. In 2016 legislation was passed establishing a presidential nomination primary in Minnesota. Precinct caucuses will still be maintained for all other elected offices.
One issue is the availability of election judges, some of whom may be south for the winter and unavailable for a winter primary election.
On another issue, Arnold said she would like to see township elections held in November rather than March. Simon said there has been talk of that at the Legislature, but the general consensus seems to be a hope that townships will move to November elections on their own, rather than have it mandated.
Arnold said she’s raised the subject with townships in Sherburne County, in part to save money. There are other issues surrounding March township elections, including low voter turnout.
Eight of the 10 townships in Sherburne County hold elections in March.