Hawaii will use much of its $3.1 million in new federal funding for election security to upgrade voter registration software, hire additional staff and provide staff training, according to a report from the Office of Elections.

The money is part of $380 million that was allotted nationwide by Congress to improve election security.

“It is important for Hawaii to receive this funding for the security of elections to stay current with the changing threat landscape to ensure the integrity of elections,” Nedielyn Bueno, the head of the Office of Elections’ voter services section, said in a statement.

She said the office needs “to stay up to date with cyber security best practices and be able to adapt to new threats.”

The state will use its new funding to upgrade voter registration software, enhance staffing and provide staff training. Brian Tseng/Civil Beat

Like many other states, Hawaii uses an online voter registration system that allows residents to register to vote, update their information, request an absentee ballot and view sample ballots online.

To keep that information as secure as possible, $2.4 million of the new funding will be used over a five-year period to upgrade software and hardware, hire cybersecurity experts and provide staff training, the report said.

The state will also purchase new computers for election offices statewide at an estimated cost of $75,000 in time for this year’s elections.

The remaining $607,080 will be used to obtain a new multiyear contract for electronic voting machines that can capture the voters’ choices and store an electronic record of their vote on a memory card.

The current contract will expire after the 2020 elections and the remaining funds are expected to cover a portion of the new contract.

To get its $3.1 million share of the federal money, Hawaii has to provide a 5 percent match of $156,704 from state funds.

The money is part of $380 million set aside for states to strengthen the security of their election systems and prevent a repeat of 2016, when federal officials determined that Russian hackers tried to breach election systems in 21 states.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission reported Thursday that 48 states and territories, including Hawaii, had requested all of the available funds.

Although Hawaii was not one of the states affected by the attempted breach, a recent report from the Center for American Progress gave the state a “D” grade for election security.

The study found shortcomings in how the state conducts its post-election audits and how often it tests its voting machines for accuracy.

It also recommended that the state require election officials to compare the number of ballots used at an individual polling place to the number of voters signed in at that location.

The Office of Elections will conducting a logic and accuracy test of the new voting machines Saturday.

Read more about the federal funding here:

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