Twenty-three Rhode Island political and civic leaders joined Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea for a discussion on the appropriation of $3 million in elections-related Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funding provided by the signing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018.
"As Secretary of State, improving access to the ballot-box and protecting the integrity of every vote are top priorities," Gorbea said. "This additional federal funding allows Rhode Island to build upon our efforts over the last three years to improve elections administration and cybersecurity."
The discussion included an overview by Department of State Elections Director, Rob Rock, on how Rhode Island previously spent HAVA funding when it was first introduced in 2002. Rob Rock and Bob Rapoza, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Board of Elections, then presented a series of recommendations with a special emphasis on cybersecurity and securing elections administration.
Among the recommendations discussed were upgrades in elections-related computer systems such as the Central Voter Registration System (CVRS); implementation of cybersecurity best practices such as asset management and database activity monitoring; implementation of risk-limiting audits; administration improvements like incident management software, and online poll worker training.
"All of us around the table are committed to ensuring that elections run smoothly and efficiently in Rhode Island," said Board of Elections Commissioner Stephen Erickson. "This funding will improve the administration and security of our elections, and provide the transparency necessary for the public to trust in the process."
The discussion concluded with taskforce members providing additional comments on the suggested recommendations and providing new recommendations to review.
"The single act of casting a ballot is fundamental to our democracy and critically important to making government accountable to the people it serves," Secretary Gorbea said. "The security of our elections is not a destination but rather a continuous process of assessment, improvement of our systems and mitigation of risk. I thank all of the Rhode Islanders who were part of this discussion along with the State Board of Elections and the local clerks."
Among those present were; RI Board of Elections Commissioners Judge Stephen Erickson, Richard Pierce, and William West, Executive Director Robert Rapoza, Bob Cooper from the Governor's Commission on Disabilities, Charles Desourdy from the Rhode Island Department of Information Technology (DoIT), Lt. Richard Ptaszek of the Rhode Island State Police Fusion Center, Representing Town Clerks and Boards of Canvassers were Lou Cirillo of Bristol, Nick Lima of Cranston, Jacquie Schulz of Portsmouth, Tracy Nelson of Newport, Claudia Haugen of Providence, Louise Phaneuf of Burrillville, Kathleen Connell of AARP of Rhode Island, John Marion of Common Cause Rhode Island, Gabriella Domenzain of the Latino Policy Institute, Rodrigo Fonseca of Brown University, Jane Koster of the RI League of Women Voters, Ann Gooding of the RI Democratic Party, Francesca Spidalieri of the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy and public members Tony Adams and Jennifer Byrnes Brower.