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Minnesota needs to upgrade its voter registration system to protect against attack, audit finds

The report suggests urgent improvements are needed to protect against hacks and ineligible voters.
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What's happening?

Minnesota's Office of the Legislative Auditor has produced a series of recommendations to protect against voter fraud and cyber attack during elections.

Minnesota was one of 21 states whose voter registration systems were subjected to attempted infiltration by hackers during the 2016 presidential election, but they were fortunately unsuccessful.

Only two of those states, Illinois and Arizona, had their systems successfully breached.

Now the audit suggests Minnesota's Secretary of State should take steps to "modernize" the Statewide Voter Registration System to make it more robust and cut down on errors.

It also suggests improvements online voter registration application, as well as changes for county election officials to better identify those who may have voted or registered while ineligible.

In spite of concerns over illegal voting, the report reveals only 69 instances of ineligible voting have been reported by county officials in the space of two years.

Many of these didn't result in a conviction, with most investigations finding the people were in fact eligible to vote but had been mistakenly identified as ineligible.

You can read the full report here

Secretary of State agrees

Secretary of State Steve Simon welcomed the audit report, and estimates it would cost $1.4 million over four years to do this.

"With regard to the specific recommendations made by the Office of the Legislative Auditor, it is beyond doubt that upgrading the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) is an immediate and vital need, and it is a top priority of my office" he said in a statement.

"Securing our elections means protecting assets like SVRS from attack. SVRS is nearly 15 years old and in need of investment."

He also agreed that inaccuracies in its data collection and reporting need to be addressed, saying having a "nearly perfect" record of only eligible voters voting is "not good enough."

"By working with other state agencies and county officials to enhance data reporting, and by working to further policy items like automatic voter registration and the implementation of electronic poll books, we will be able to improve upon our 99.999 percent success rate in this area," he says.

State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, who was the secretary of state from 1999 to 2007 when the voter registration system was developed, agreed with the need for upgrades but thinks the illegal voting issue is underestimated.

But according to the Star Tribune, she also thinks the state should end its practice of allowing voters to register at the polls without computer checks as to their eligibility.

She said Minnesota is one of only three sates that don' require these voters to cast provisional ballots so they can be checked before they're counted, the newspaper notes.

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