FILE - OH Theresa Gavarone

Ohio state Sen. Theresa Gavarone.

A bill under consideration by the Ohio House Finance Committee would require the governor to organize and maintain a state civilian cybersecurity reserve force.

Senate Bill 52 tasks the Ohio Cyber Reserve with educating and protecting the state, including governmental agencies, businesses and critical infrastructure, from cyber-attacks.

The bill appropriates $100,000 in Fiscal Year 2019 and $550,000 in Fiscal Year 2020 from the General Revenue Fund (GRF) to the adjutant general for expenses related to creating and operating the Ohio Cyber Reserve.

“The Ohio Cyber Reserve will use the same mechanism utilized by the Ohio National Guard to respond to natural disasters under State Active Duty,” state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, told members of the House Finance Committee.

“A local mayor, elected official or private business will contact the governor’s office if they are unable to handle a cyber-security threat with their resources alone,” Gavarone added. “The governor’s office will assess the request and, if needed, authorize the Ohio National Guard to activate the Cyber Reserve.”

Specific to elections, the bill adds a chief information security officer to the Secretary of State’s office to help local boards of elections to be more resilient to respond to attacks, and better prepared to respond when they happen, Gavarone said.

“Post-election audits provide the certainty voters need to know their votes are counted,” Gavarone said. “Unfortunately, audits are currently not required by law, only at the directive of the secretary of state. This bill will make audits a statutory requirement for at least three elections in each county, each year and provide Ohioans with greater confidence in the electoral system.”

The bill could cost local boards of elections more money for post-election audits for every election, not just general elections.

While committee members asked no questions of Gavarone, the Ohio Association of Election Officials and the Ohio Township Association previously expressed their support for the bill. However, Aronetics, an Ohio-based technology and security company, expressed concerns about the proposal.

“Businesses and citizens of Ohio do not need Ohio Cyber Militia taking care of their cyber issue, on their phone or otherwise,” John Aron, CEO of Aronetics, said in previous written testimony. “The opportunity for abuse is large.”

Another proposed election-related initiative, House Bill 204, would prohibit counties from acquiring so-called direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines or any marking devices or automatic tabulating equipment that does not use a paper ballot. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Akron, has stalled in the House State and Local Government Committee.

The Center Square Contributor