Ohio ramps up election security

Ohio is moving to implement a string of election security measures with new funding from Washington as the state races against the clock to guard against foreign hacking and disinformation campaigns.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), speaking on the sidelines of last week’s National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) meeting in Washington, said there has been a seismic shift at the state level following 2016 Russian election interference.

“From what I’ve observed, there is definitely a pre-2016, post-2016 mentality,” said LaRose, who characterized the coordination between the federal government, states and county officials as improving “exponentially.”

Congress appropriated $380 million in 2018 to help states boost their election security. That was followed by an additional $425 million in December.

“I don’t think you’re ever going to hear a secretary of State or any state official say, ‘Turn off the tap, we’ve got enough federal funding,'” LaRose said. “I’m a fiscal conservative and I believe that we should be smart with our taxpayers’ dollars, but the demand is huge.”

LaRose said he expected the new funds to be sent out to the states by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) “soon,” though an official for the EAC did not respond to The Hill’s inquiry on specific timing.

As the state gears up for the pivotal 2020 elections, LaRose said it doesn’t matter who’s attempting to interfere in the elections, characterizing any adversary as his “enemy.”

“The Russians, the North Koreans, the Chinese want to undermine the credibility of American democracy, and I think that they’ll use a variety of means to try to do so,” LaRose said. “We are not going to let them do it in Ohio, and I know that my counterparts in other states feel the same way.”