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Christian County official testifies before Congress about election security

Christian County official testifies before Congress about election security

Michael Gianasi

Christian County Clerk and Recorder Michael Gianasi appears in front of the Committee on House Administration in Washington on Thursday. 

WASHINGTON — Christian County's top election official testified before members of Congress on Thursday about election security. 

Christian County Clerk and Recorder Michael Gianasi appeared in front of the Committee on House Administration and talked about pressure to guard against cyber attacks and other threats.

The ranking GOP member on the committee is U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, of Taylorville, who invited Gianasi to speak about "increasing election security to protect the integrity of our elections," said Ashley Phelps, a spokeswoman for the congressman, in an email. 

"Excited to have my home county clerk testify before the committee I lead today. Christian County Clerk Michael Gianasi will discuss what smaller counties like his are doing to ensure our elections remain secure at the local level," Davis said on Twitter before the hearing. 

The committee has come under additional attention recently because of Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential race and concerns that Iran may do the same in light of the recent escalating tension in the Middle East. 

Hackers got info for 76,000 Illinois voters in '16. Here's what's being done in Macon County.

Gianasi, who oversees a county of 21,212 registered voters, said new voting machines have replaced former machines purchased in 2004 that had "outdated hardware that is no longer able to physically provide a dark print on the ballot."

"Those machines, although doing well up through and including the most recent elections, have seen better days," Gianasi said.

The originals were purchased with federal funding through the Help America Vote Act and the new machines were leased for six years at approximately $322,000 using county board general obligation money.

Concern regarding election security peaked after the Illinois election system was discovered to be among 21 other states targeted by Russian government hackers in 2016. Nearly 200,000 Illinois voter registration records had been accessed by the end of 2018, according to a House Intelligence Committee report in October.

A statewide approach called the "Cyber Navigator" program was launched in 2018 by the State Board of Elections. It hired consultants to work with local election officials and address specific vulnerabilities.  

Gianasi said the program benefits election authorities without a dedicated information technology staff "or those that just have an inability to continue to monitor all of the problems coming down the line and be able to provide solutions to those problems."

Christian County hires an outside IT contractor to perform patch updates, firewall updates and other functions, he said.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Election Day in Macon County

Contact Garrett Karsten at (217) 421-6949. Follow him on Twitter: @GarrettKarsten


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