PADUCAH — In 2018, we face cybersecurity threats on social media, our smartphones, and even some cars. May 22, many Kentuckians head to the polls to vote in a primary for their county races. How do we know our votes are safe?
Most of Kentucky’s more than 3,700 voting precincts have a backup in place — a paper trail — according to Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Grimes recommended all future voting systems be Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines, which the Kentucky State Board of Elections has now mandated. “We want to build public confidence that, should something happen — which, none of our machines are ever connected to the internet — but should someone attempt to interfere with our elections either on Election Day or prior to Election Day, there is that paper trail after the fact that voters can have confidence in this process,” Grimes says.
McCracken County and the majority of counties in the Commonwealth use DRE machines today.
Thursday, Griggs, along with the County Board of Elections, worked for hours to certify each of McCracken County’s 108 DRE voting machines. Griggs reiterates that they’re not hooked up to the internet. She says the machines rarely have issues. If there is a technology issue, she says, a representative with the vendor, Harp Enterprises, will be in the county to assist. Ultimately, if a machine malfunctions, all paper ballots are stored safely for 22 months.
Griggs says votes on a local level really can’t be hacked. “We put so many checks and double checks into place, and the reason we do it because we want to protect and defend the integrity of the elections. We want people to be confident, feel confident that when they’ve gone and voted, their vote counts,” she says.
Last month, Griggs and members of the Kentucky County Clerks Association sat through cybersecurity training by the Department of Homeland Security, hosted by the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office. A release with Grimes’ office says the partnership between the SOS and DHS is one of the first of its kind in the country.
In the training, Griggs learned long-term cybersecurity techniques to implement in the clerk’s office. They include more complex passwords to access voter registration forms and to limit the number of employees with the information.
Grimes says training has been the focal point of her security initiatives to combat false information and chaos at the polls. The goal, she says, is to combat foreign and domestic threats. Grimes plans to extend the training around the state this summer.
McCracken County was also chosen to be a part of a pilot program, the use of e-poll roster books. They’re basically electronic tablets that speed of the lines at the polls. Voters will scan their identification and be directed to the correct ballot and told if they’re at the correct precinct.
Grimes encourages all Kentuckians to go to govoteky.com to find directions to their precinct, dos and don’ts on what to bring to the polls, and a sample ballot. She says Kentuckians “cannot have their voice heard if they do not go vote.”