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Elections security money is in limbo

Minnesota received a federal grant for election security projects, but the state's top elections official can't touch the money until the legislature gives the green light.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Secretary of State Steve Simon Wednesday called on lawmakers to release federal grant money aimed at elections cyber security.

Minnesota in 2016 withstood a hacking attempt on the elections system and voter data, but Secretary Simon and fellow elections officials know they may not always be able to defeat the hackers.

"We know that the hackers will be back, and they will probably be smarter next time. And that’s not just my opinion," Simon told reporters.

Congress in March approved grant money for elections integrity projects. Minnesota's share was $6.6 million, but it's sitting in an account. By law, the Secretary of State's office isn't allowed to spend any of it until getting approval from the Legislature.

He's asking lawmakers to release $1.5 million of the federal fund,

"And that’s what we need from the legislature now, a simple authorization to be able to access part, not even all, part of the money that the federal government has provided for us for election security," Simon explained.

The money would be used to hire computer coders to make changes to the 2004 voter system.

Simon's elections request was initially a free-standing piece of legislation, but is now traveling through the State Capitol as part of a large catch-all bill that includes many other issues. And that bill is in jeopardy of being vetoed.

"I served in the legislature for 10 years. I have seen many good and popular things wither and die in the last few days of session," Simon explained.

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