Maryland officials OK election-security contract

Maryland’s Board of Public Works has approved a $1.3 million contract to bolster security of the state’s elections data.

At its Wednesday meeting, the board — made up of Gov. Larry Hogan, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot — heard from Linda Lamone, the administrator of the state Board of Elections.

Franchot referenced Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who told members of Congress last month it was clear that the Russians had tried to interfere with U.S. elections, and then added, “They’re doing it as we sit here.”

Lamone explained to the board why the contract with VivSoft, a Virginia IT consulting firm, was needed.

“We’ve got staff that is able to do the everyday protection” of the state’s elections system, she said, but “we don’t have any expertise for looking forward and planning strategically as to where we need to be” in terms of dealing with future threats.

In explaining that the contract would help address the need to secure elections in the coming 2020, 2022 and 2024 elections, Lamone was comfortable saying that “everything is fine” today. But because she’s not an expert in data security, “I can’t really say with confidence that in the future we will be comfortable.”

The Board of Elections is currently using services provided by the Department of Homeland Security to monitor its systems, she said.

Lamone mentioned two things that often come up when people question the security of Maryland’s elections systems: “We never connect the voting system to the internet,” said Lamone, adding that the state uses paper ballots.

“That’s music to most people’s ears,” Franchot responded, “that there’s a paper trail.”

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