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State officials move to secure voting systems ahead of 2020 elections

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Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Michigan is taking steps to secure the state’s voting systems from potential cyberattacks during the 2020 elections.

Federal officials warn that hackers are targeting the upcoming elections — plotting everything from obtaining voter information to spreading disinformation by planting stories online that ballots had been changed.

To help combat that, Michigan has hired its first-ever election security specialist. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says it’s just one in a series of moves designed to safeguard the sanctity of the voting booth.

"Well, we are far better than other states in that we have optical scan machines. So we have hand-marked paper ballots and our machines, for the most part, are not connected to the Internet or transmitting over the Internet,” says Benson.

But Benson cautions that cyber threats are always evolving and that the state’s voter registration records and many systems that program ballots with the names of candidates are still Internet-based.

Some elections officials blame election problems on human error. The city of Detroit, in particular, has been plagued by long lines at polling places and, at times, questionable election results.

Benson says the pool of poll workers is aging and needs to be replenished.

"We’ve got to get more talented people willing to serve. And we’ve got to better train those who are appointed to serve so that they’re willing and able to meet the requirements of the job," she says.

Benson says her office is reaching out to companies with highly-skilled work-forces in the hope that the employers will allow their employees the necessary time off to be trained and deployed at polling places on election days.

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