Politics

Walker readies Guard cybersecurity team for Election Day

MADISON, Wis. - Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Friday activated Wisconsin National Guard troops for Election Day, saying he wants the Guard’s cybersecurity team ready to help election officials if needed.

Walker’s executive order authorized the Guard’s commander, Adjutant General Donald Dunbar, to provide “essential services” to the state Elections Commission.

Election security has been a nationwide concern since Russian efforts in 2016 to target state networks. Guard spokeswoman Maj. Joy Staab said the order will allow cybersecurity teams to deploy quickly if election clerks need help. Staab said the Guard wasn’t aware of any cyber threats.

Meagan Wolfe, the commission’s executive director, said during a conference call that the state’s election system is secure from hackers. She called the activation a precaution, and said the commission had not asked for the assistance.

Wisconsin was among the states targeted by Russian hackers before the 2016 election. Federal and state officials have said Wisconsin’s election systems weren’t compromised, but the state and Elections Commission have taken steps to increase security. The state got nearly $7 million in federal money to do so, and the commission has earmarked some of it for additional technical and security staff.

A Department of Homeland Security official, Alex Joves, said last month that no new threats had been detected in Wisconsin ahead of the midterm election.

Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney said the only time voters might see troops is if officials need help moving a polling site in a natural disaster. He said troops won’t be involved in election operations.

Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar said he has placed the Wisconsin National Guard cyber response teams on standby for Election Day as a precautionary measure. The teams are prepared to assist local and state election officials in the event of a cyber-security incident during the elections.  

"Wisconsin voters should feel confident that the Wisconsin National Guard’s team is ready if needed to provide assistance on Election Day," said Dunbar. "The governor’s executive order simply allows us to deploy those resources quickly." 

Walker is locked in a tight race with Democratic challenger Tony Evers.

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