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As Trump and Putin meet, state election officials are working to ensure no future cyber-attacks

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As Congress reacts to Monday’s meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, behind the scenes state election officials are working to ensure no future hacking of the nation’s election systems.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has allocated $380 million after U.S. intelligence officials detailed the way Russia tried to interfere with the 2016 election.

Indiana is expected to receive nearly $7.6 million. State election officials said that money will be used in part to replace or add equipment, expand a statewide multi-factor authentication system and overall increase its security assessments. Grant money will also be made available to counties that request it.

Indiana is one of 13 states without a paper ballot backup for every voting machine, which advocates point to as a problem not only in Indiana but across the country.

In about 40 percent of counties, like Marion County, voters still use paper ballots that are electronically scanned but can still be seen and counted by hand if needed. Advocates have said every state should ensure this type of backup.

“We love the idea of a paper trail,” Russell Hollis said, deputy director at the Marion County Clerk’s office. “That’s something that our voters have preferred over the years.”

The rest of the state, roughly 60 percent of counties, use touch screens to vote. Paper tabs are kept in the back of the machine, election officials said, but don’t include technology for a voter verifiable ballot like paper ballots do.

An analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice estimated the cost to replace paperless balloting machines in Indiana would cost between $22.7 million to $35.6 million, a far cry from the $7.6 million the state will receive in federal money.

The state is also working with stakeholders to host “risk-limiting audits.” The first was recently held in Marion County. The audit tested difference scenarios for any potential problems. The state will expand the audits statewide.

“People throughout the country have begun to question the integrity of various election systems,” Hollis said. “And we did think it was a good idea in helping the state in making sure our systems were secure.”