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Wisconsin Elections Commission Plans To Increase Security Training

Erin Toner


Wisconsin's Elections Commission is beefing up its security measures in the wake of Russian hacking attempts in the 2016 presidential election. During a meeting in Madison Monday, the commission disclosed a draft of its plan to ensure all parties involved with elections are aware of proper security measures.

State elections officials say the federal government discovered what appeared to be efforts by hackers to get voter information last fall. No voting systems were compromised, but the Department of Homeland Security found suspicious activity involving the state's Department of Workforce Development.

Since then, the state Elections Commission has drawn up a plan to increase training practices to protect future elections.

Megan McCord Wolfe,  the commission’s assistant administrator, says the agency has analyzed training resources that are available through the federal government to implement at the local level. She says one of the elections commission's major responsibilities is to make certain all municipal and county clerks know exactly what election functions need to be carried out, and how to keep voter information private, throughout the process.

“We have nearly 3,000 users of the WisVote system. Because of that we have a very unique challenge and that is to make sure all those 3,000 users are adequately trained; and not just using the WisVote system, but in security in general,” Wolfe says.

She says the elections commission plans to develop a training series to certify workers. It's being rolled out, with a goal of having all staff trained before next fall's elections.

Original post, September 28:


Russian hackers did not try to infiltrate Wisconsin’s voter registration system after all.

The State Elections Commission met in Madison Tuesday to discuss claims the Department of Homeland Security made regarding concerns of a potential system breach back in 2016.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced that Wisconsin was one of 21 states that Russia attempted to hack during the 2016 election. Suspicious IP addresses linked to system breaches in other states raised concerns here.

Herb Thompson, one of the state’s IT officials, told the Wisconsin Elections Commission that Wisconsin’s voter system was not the target.

“Was there an activity? Was there a hack? The answer was, there was nothing there. Again, somebody trying to turn the doorknobs on another agency, not elections,” he said.

Thompson says the suspicious activity involved the Department of Workforce Development, not elections.

Although he is confident there’s no need for alarm, the Wisconsin Election Commission is stepping up its security efforts at all levels to be better prepared in case there is a next time. 

Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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