PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Congress intended to let states including South Dakota decide how to spend federal election grants under the Help America Vote Act program, according to U.S. Senator Mike Rounds.
Rounds, a Republican, was a first-year governor of South Dakota when the first HAVA distributions were made in 2003.
He said Congress wanted each state and territory to take “a deep dive” and address specific weaknesses.
South Dakota received $3 million from Congress last year to further beef up the security of its election system. The Legislature last month appropriated $150,000 to provide a required match of five percent.
The state already had more than $9 million of HAVA money invested and earning interest as of the September 30 end of the 2018 federal fiscal year.
Rounds said Russians tried to create dissension and controversy in the 2016 U.S. presidental election and “succeeded in some of that” but were “defeated” in 2018.
Having 50 states and three territories take separate approaches makes election manipulation more difficult for an outside group or nation to accomplish, according to Rounds.
He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014 and is chairman of the chamber’s armed-forces cybersecurity subcommittee.
Rounds said he’s been working to expand the federal Defense Department as an offensive force on cyber warfare while keeping security strong.
He’s also been promoting the concept of a cyber-defense agency for all of the federal government and for businesses nationwide.
“There are different seams that occur,” Rounds said. “We don’t have an agreed-upon plan yet for what cyber-security should look at.”
One of the changes made under President Donald Trump was a broader definition of cyber-security outside war zones, he said.
Nations such as China are “still stealing a lot” from U.S. technology companies, according to Rounds.
“We’re not done yet. We still have a long way to go,” he said.
Rounds said he has been trying to promote the role of Dakota State University at Madison in cyber security for the Department of Defense and in financial institutes.
The university received approval from the state Board of Regents a week ago to offer a doctorate degree in cyber defense this fall.