What if Minnesota could lay its hands on $6.6 million to update its voting system, making it impervious to hacks by Russian troublemakers or anyone else? What if instead of putting that money to work immediately, it just let the money sit there, untouchable, as the midterms and next presidential election drew ever nearer?
If that sounds ridiculous, it should. And yet this badly needed funding, already secured as part of a national effort to update voting systems and signed into law by President Donald Trump, is unavailable because the Minnesota Legislature may not act on it in time for the 2018 elections.
In this state, the Legislature must authorize use of the funds, even though they come directly from the federal government. Lawmakers could easily have consented early in the session. Had that been the case, the secretary of state’s office would already be working on updates. Instead, like most everything else this session, the authorization has been lumped into a giant and controversial spending bill that might draw a gubernatorial veto as the 2018 session draws to a close.
That is a risky tactic with any number of the spending provisions in the megabill. But if this reckless move takes down the authorization, this state will be jeopardizing the security of its election system in a year when Minnesota faces an exceptionally packed, high-stakes ballot featuring races for governor, two U.S. Senate seats, several nationally tracked congressional contests and the Minnesota House all in the mix.