Elections panel scales back clerk loaner program

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The state Elections Commission has scaled back a plan to loan local clerks secure computers.

Commission staff has warned the panel that scores of clerks are using outdated computer systems or aren't installing security patches, leaving their local election data and Wisconsin's election system vulnerable to potentially devastating cyberattacks.

The staff recommended buying software that can tests clerks' vulnerabilities remotely, loaning clerks 250 up-to-date computers at a cost of up to $300,000 and creating a new position to provide technical support for the loaner program.

The commission voted Tuesday to purchase the software to test clerk vulnerabilities at a cost of up to $69,000 annually. The panel voted to spend only $30,000 on 25 loaner computers, however, amid concerns that the commission doesn't have a firm grasp of how many clerks actually need them. The commission ordered staff to get the vulnerability-testing software in place and deliver findings from that effort at the panel's Sept. 24 meeting.

The commission unanimously authorized staff to begin setting up the technical support position but to obtain commission permission before posting the position.

A federal grant will cover funding for all the initiatives.