Thursday, May 24, 2018
JACKSON Mississippi county election commissions will be able to apply to the secretary of state's office for federal grant funds to secure elections this year. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann announced that Mississippi will receive $4.5 million in federal Help America Vote Act funds, likely this summer. Hosemann put up a 5-percent match, about $224,000, from his state budget so the state can receive the funding.
He told the Jackson Free Press that some of the funds will go toward making the Statewide Election Management System stronger, but the majority of the money will go to the counties that apply. They can use the funds to upgrade voting machines, or if they do not need those upgrades—like in Hinds County—they can apply for funds to use on election security and disability access.
"We're encouraging them to make sure we have disability access to the polls," Hosemann said.
Counties will not receive the funds before the congressional primary election on June 5 but could have them before the general election in November.
Hosemann's office has worked with the Mississippi National Guard and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that the state's election system is secure. Mississippi's voting machines are not connected to the Internet, and some counties use paper ballots. In order to test security, Hosemann has hired outside groups to attempt to penetrate the statewide election system, but no such attempts have prevailed, he said.
"The cyber-security risk is not that they will get your ballot; it's that they will influence your decision," Hosemann told the Jackson Free Press. "If you look at these companies that have been charged by the president for participating in our election process, they're all doing it by Facebook and email, and those kinds of things."
He pointed to social-media accounts Russian groups used to influence public opinion during the 2016 presidential election.
"One of the (usernames) was 'Tenn_gop.' Now, you and I would think, 'Well, that's the Tennessee GOP.' Well, it's not; it's the Russians," Hosemann said. "They tried to get us to where we are so distrustful of the system that we don't cast a ballot. That's the biggest risk."
Mississippians will go to the polls on June 5 to vote in Democratic or Republican primary elections, which are open. All four Congressional House seats are up for re-election, as well as both Senate seats after Sen. Thad Cochran retired this spring.
To check your voter registration status or see where you vote, visit: www.sos.ms.gov/vote.