- Associated Press - Monday, August 13, 2018

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The chief elections official in Rhode Island told the state’s two U.S. senators Monday she’s confident the voting systems are secure now, but it’ll cost millions more to guard against hacking and other cyberattacks in the future.

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea met with U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse in Providence. They discussed how to strengthen election security, the local resources available to do so and the threats. After, all three described it as an ongoing effort.

“The challenges that democracy faces today are some that we’ve never seen before,” Gorbea said. “We continue to strengthen the integrity of the voting systems while still making sure that we have improved access to voting.”

Rhode Island has taken several steps since 2016 to ensure the security of elections, including adopting a new audit system highly recommended by federal authorities, Gorbea said. She’s also using federal funding to upgrade the state’s central voter registration system.

Gorbea said the state will continue to need federal grants, and local municipalities need an influx of funding to improve how elections are administered.

“Initially it will require a lot, to the tune of millions of dollars,” she said. “And then we should be able to figure out what the new normal is for security.”

Reed and Whitehouse are urging Congress and the Trump administration to provide additional election security assistance to states. The Rhode Island Democrats pushed to set aside $250 million in grants for states to upgrade their voting systems to protect against cyber intrusions.

The Republican-controlled Senate recently defeated that amendment, which had been offered by Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy. Leahy had argued that the Senate must send a clear message to Russia and other foreign adversaries that tampering in U.S. elections won’t be tolerated.

Reed said Monday: “We have to be sure that our elections represent the will of the American people, not the intrusion of foreign powers.”

Whitehouse described elections security as a race against people who are constantly trying to upgrade their technology and tactics. Reed and Whitehouse are also trying to get the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to improve how it shares information with entities administering administer elections.

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