Home Politics Policy Senate bill to be signed by Gov. Dewine creates Ohio Cyber Reserve

Senate bill to be signed by Gov. Dewine creates Ohio Cyber Reserve

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Governor Mike Dewine is expected Friday to sign an Ohio Senate bill into law that improves state election security and authorizes the creation of a civilian task force that would protect against statewide cyber attacks.

Senate Bill 52 was introduced this past February, passing unanimously in both the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives, according to the legislature’s website, meaning all 132 members of the Ohio General Assembly voted for the legislation. 

The measure introduces a new branch of security titled the Ohio Cyber Reserve under Ohio Adjutant General John Harris, a member of Gov. DeWine’s cabinet who commands the Ohio National Guard. The bill also highlights the Ohio General Assembly’s efforts to protect democratic processes by requiring audits of election results.

Cyber Reserve – why it was created and how it will work

Under the instruction of Gov. Dewine, the Reserve is responsible for educating and protecting government agencies, elections and citizens against potential cyberattacks, according to the legislation. Members of the Reserve are accepted on a volunteer basis. Ohio Senator Theresa Gavarone, primary sponsor of the bill, explained that anyone can ask for help from the Reserve team.

“You know, when you’re under a cyber attack, your time is of the essence,” she said. “So, it’s important to make sure that we are being proactive and ready to act and get this under control as quickly as possible, and minimize any impact.”

The bill will appropriate $100,000 to the Reserve for the rest of 2019 while funding $550,000 into the organization in 2020. Members will only be paid while they are on active duty. 

Michigan also created a similar cybersecurity task force on 2017 titled “Cyber Civilian Corps” or MiC13.

“We wanted to make sure that in Ohio, we are protecting our citizens the best way possible,” she continued. “So we’re going to be, you know, a leader in the nation and our readiness to respond to these attacks.”

Auditing Ballots – how it will protect election results 

The bill also introduced a new procedure in verifying election results, requiring the Ohio Board of Elections to audit results no earlier than 21 days after election day. Currently, the state only requires post-election audits for general elections and presidential primary elections.

The board must hand-count ballots from “three contested races” under the direction of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Secretary LaRose requested the bill to be introduced prior to the 2020 election, according to The Toledo Blade.

“Ohio is a really important state when it comes to elections, and we need to make sure that people know when they vote in Ohio, that their vote counts and is counted correctly,” Gavarone said.

This is a continuation of former Secretary of State Jon Husted’s plan to expand audit funding after the state received a $12.1 million grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Audit results would be made available on Secretary LaRose’s official website.

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