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PROVIDENCE, RI – Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea today presented her recommendations on how to best protect the security of elections in Rhode Island with the $3 million of Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding allocated to the state. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 allocated $380 million nationwide to use towards election security. Secretary Gorbea serves as the state's Chief Elections Official under HAVA and her recommendations come after convening a Task Force to discuss best practices in cybersecurity and elections administration in Rhode Island. The recommendations will be presented to Governor Raimondo and the General Assembly for review and inclusion in the FY19 state budget. The project initiatives will also be provided to the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
"As Secretary of State, I have been working to improve access to the ballot box, while protecting the integrity of every vote," Gorbea said. "After a robust conversation with a diverse group of stakeholders, I'm confident these recommendations will help us further strengthen the security of elections in Rhode Island. I look forward to working with Governor Raimondo and the General Assembly on implementing these recommendations over the next few months."
Among the final recommendations, Secretary Gorbea will allocate funding to:
• Upgrade the Central Voter Registration System (CVRS)
• Implement risk-limiting audits
• Provide grants to cities and towns to improve elections administration and security
• Update equipment used by the Board of Elections (BoE) to sort and count mail ballots
Members of Rhode Island's congressional delegation including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman James Langevin, and Congressman David Cicilline, who were instrumental in procuring these additional HAVA funds in Congress, joined Secretary Gorbea at the announcement. Senator Jack Reed, while not in attendance, acknowledged the work being done to secure our elections systems.
"Our election systems were attacked in 2016 and election security must be a national priority. I'm pleased to have secured federal funds to help Rhode Island boost its election security. These funds will provide federal support to strengthen the state's election system and improve network security and election infrastructure," said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee who supported inclusion of these funds in the 2018 Omnibus spending bill and worked to include a small state minimum to ensure that Rhode Island and other small states would each receive at least $3 million to improve election security. "Every vote must count and every voter must have full confidence in the integrity of our elections. I'm glad Rhode Island is transparently putting these federal funds to good use and enhancing election security."
"The 2016 election was a wake-up call, not a one-off. We need to protect our elections from cyber threats that experts throughout government and the private sector warn are coming," said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "I applaud the task force on this plan. Rhode Island is fortunate to have leaders, like national cyber expert Congressman Jim Langevin, who are willing to confront cyber threats head-on."
"As a member of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, I'm proud that we secured $380 million in federal funding to help states secure their election systems ahead of the 2018 elections," said Congressman James Langevin, who sent a letter requesting the additional funding be released under the Help America Vote Act. "As a former Secretary of State, I understand the challenges associated with keeping our elections secure, particularly in the face of aggression from sophisticated actors like Russia, and I commend Secretary Gorbea for her steadfast commitment to protecting Rhode Island's democratic institutions."
Congressman Cicilline added, "In our democracy, there is no right more sacred than the right of the people to choose who governs. It is critical that the public has confidence that our elections are conducted fairly and freely at all times. That's why it's so important that we ensure Russia and other hostile actors are never again able to compromise our election infrastructure. I am pleased that Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea is continuing to lead our state forward on this important issue. I'll continue working to ensure she has the resources and tools she needs to protect the security of Rhode Island's elections."
"The single act of casting a ballot is fundamental to our democracy and critically important to making government accountable to the people it serves," Secretary Gorbea said. "The security of our elections is not a destination but rather a continuous process of assessment, improvement of our systems and mitigation of risk. I thank all of the Rhode Islanders who were part of this process including our representatives in Washington, the State Board of Elections and the local clerks."
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