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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

$587,000 upgrade will make county voting machines more secure

Poll worker Damian Bynum prepares a voting machine in New Haven. At a cost of $575,526, software for the county's 675 electronic machines will be upgraded to improve performance and security. (News-Sentinel file photo)
Poll worker Damian Bynum prepares a voting machine in New Haven. At a cost of $575,526, software for the county's 675 electronic machines will be upgraded to improve performance and security. (News-Sentinel file photo)
Beth Dlug
Beth Dlug
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Thursday, April 20, 2017 02:24 pm

Allen County will spend $587,526 to upgrade the reliability and security of its voting machines.

And, no, the Russians aren't to blame.

County Council's Thursday approval of the funds will provide updated software for 675 electronic voting machines, seven laptops and one server, along with an improved security system for the Lima Road facility in which the voting machines are stored between elections.

Although the change is a result of age as much as the need for better security, Director of Elections Beth Dlug said the improvements are timely thanks to suspected Russian hacking of some states' online voter-registration databases and attempts to influence last year's presidential election.

Voting machines are not connected to the Internet and as a result cannot be "hacked" in the traditional sense, but Dlug said the county machines' aging software could make them vulnerable to certain forms of hands-on tampering. "We've been looking at updating things since 2011. We knew the current system would last about 10 years," she said.

The software upgrade means the county will not have to buy new, more-secure voting machines, which were declared "critical infrastructure" by the Department of Homeland Security in 2016. That would have cost the county about $2.7 million, Dlug said. The updated software is expected to last another decade or so and will be installed in plenty of time for next year's local elections, which will have about 32,000 fewer people eligible to vote thanks to a recent statewide purge.

In addition to improved security, the new software will also provide greater flexibility while maintaining current procedures familiar to voters.

"Anything you can do to improve security is better," Dlug said.

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