State of Security: Mississippi

Who's in Charge: Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann

Election officials in Mississippi seem to be well aware that potential security problems with its Statewide Election Management System loom as large, run as deep – and are as quickly moving – as the storied river with which the state shares its name. And so Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has put considerable effort into bolstering election security and regularly raising awareness among county circuit clerks.

Hosemann, who is currently on a tour of sorts to address low voter turnout, told reporters he dedicates a portion of his day to cybersecurity.

One of Mississippi’s congressional representatives, Bennie G. Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security, has kept a watchful eye on his home state. Thompson said the $4.5 million grant that Mississippi received from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission will help the state secure its election systems. Already Hosemann has used $700,000 to secure the Statewide Election Management System with the rest being earmarked for local circuit clerks to modernize voting systems and address other security needs. Hosemann also pitched in an additional $224,000 from his budget.

By all accounts, the state has some serious work to do. Like its neighbor, Louisiana, Mississippi uses electronic voting systems that do not produce a paper trail and it fails to order comprehensive audits of elections, earning it a “D” grade from the Center for American Progress report, Election Security in All 50 States – Defending America’s Elections.

Mississippi also got called out for letting military and others living abroad to submit ballots electronically, a measure frowned upon by security pros.

Still, all is not lost, the state racked up kudos for its “ballot accounting and reconciliation procedures and for requiring that all voting machines be tested to EAC Voluntary Voting System Guidelines,” the American Progress report said, as well as for requiring “election officials to conduct pre-election logic and accuracy testing on all machines that will be used in an upcoming election.”

It also does a fair job meeting the minimum security standards when it comes to voter registration, the group said.

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