League of Women Voters says Texas county election websites are not secure

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As the 2020 presidential primary approaches, the League of Women Voters of Texas says that nearly 80 percent of county election websites in the state are not secure, KUT 90.5 reported.

A spokesman for the secretary of state’s office said Texas will use federal funds to improve the security of the county websites, but that the effort won’t be finished in time for the presidential primary.

The nonpartisan league’s president, Grace Chimene, told the radio station that she was “shocked” at the lack of website security demonstrated in Texas. The league found that 201 of the 254 county election websites don’t signal in their URLs that the website is secure.

“This is just the most simple thing to fix and it hasn’t been fixed,” she said.

The group’s report comes months after multiple Texas counties experienced ransomware attacks in which hackers locked county officials out of their own networks and demanded as much as $2.5 million for the return of the systems. 

The league checks before each major election to ensure the websites have legally required election information that is easy to find and understand. Chimene pointed out that only nine counties have a .gov address, which indicates they are government-verified domains.

“Voters need to know that when they land on a website, that it is actually the correct website,” she told KUT. “Right now we have websites that are .net, .org, .com, and it’s really hard to tell whether it’s an actual website by the government or if it’s another website by perhaps some other organization that doesn’t have good purposes and wants to lead voters astray. 

Texas Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Stephen Chang told the radio station the office will use $24 million in federal Help America Vote Act funds to strengthen election cybersecurity before the 2020 election cycle, which includes aiding local governments in boosting their election security and improving the infrastructure of the state’s computerized voter registration database.

However, Chang said the work will not be complete before the state’s 2020 primary in March. Chimene wants security issues addressed before early voting begins on Feb. 18.

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