Ohio Lawmakers Propose Protecting Elections with Civilian Cyber Militia

The Ohio State Senate’s Committee on Government Oversight and Reform took up a bill Wednesday with a unique solution to protect the ballot box in the next election.

Senate Bill 52 (SB 52) will authorize the creation of the “Ohio Cyber Reserve,” a new division of the Ohio National Guard that will focus on cybersecurity. Uniquely the division will be largely comprised of an all-volunteer force of various cybersecurity and technology experts.  Though they will serve with the Guard, the bill, under sections; 5922.04. 5922.02 to 5922.08 of the Revised Code, explicitly does “not authorize the Ohio cyber reserve, or any part thereof, to be called or ordered into the military service of the United States. The reserve may become a civilian component of the Ohio National Guard.”

According to Republican State Senator Theresa Gavarone of District 2, the bills Primary Sponsor:

The new force which Senate Bill 52 creates within the Ohio National Guard, consists of qualified civilians who are cyber security experts. The Ohio Cyber Reserve will maintain regional Cyber Response Teams (CRT) capable of deterring, mitigating, and remedying cyber-attacks against our local governments, local agencies, election systems and community partners.

The clear utility of this approach is to cost-effectively attract the talent and skill sets necessary to effectively ensure voter integrity without compelling military service. It does raise a number of questions about the talent that will be attracted. When Senator Gavarone’s office was asked what qualifications and security checks will each member of this new division will have to pass, they replied:

There is the possibility members of the Cyber Reserve would be exposed to proprietary information as part of their duties. Anyone who would be exposed to sensitive information would be bound by a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)…. The exact background checks are not yet determined. But any member of the Cyber Reserve will have to pass all standard, applicable background checks in an area where they will potentially operate. For example, members will have to pass a background check for information technology/cybersecurity, as well as the standard background check for teachers set by the Department of Education, and so on. The goal is give members maximum flexibility and be able to work in as many areas or with as many organizations as possible.

The legislation also includes new requirements for post-election audits. They will now be taken after every election, instead of only after odd-year elections. In regards to the importance of this new division, Gavarone stated:

“Ensuring personal information is safe and our elections are secure is certainly a priority for me…I am proud to work on legislation that will protect Ohioans from cyber threats and uphold the integrity of our elections.”

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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio StarSend tips to [email protected].
Photo “Theresa Gavarone” by Theresa Gavarone. 










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