COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s elections chief is emphasizing the security of the key battleground state’s electoral process as he seeks to bolster voter confidence ahead of Election Day.
The state has improved its voter registration data and strengthened its laws, processes and technology, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
“Ohio’s election system is as secure as it’s ever been,” he said.
Husted’s comments follow concerns of possible voter intimidation at polling places and repeated claims from GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump that the election is rigged against him.
Some things to know about voter security in Ohio:
EVERY VOTE HAS A PAPER TRAIL
Seventy percent of all ballots cast in Ohio will be paper ballots, according to Husted. Even those cast on electronic voting machines have paper backups. And nothing related to the casting or counting of a ballot is connected to the Internet, Husted says, so it’s not at risk of a cybersecurity threat.
Once votes are cast, memory cards from the machines or the paper ballots themselves are locked in a bag or container. A Democrat and a Republican escort the votes from the polling site to the local board of elections. The tally occurs in front of the bipartisan elections board during a public meeting. “That process is open and transparent,” Husted said.
VOTING MACHINES, ABSENTEE BALLOTS ARE SECURE
Machines are audited for accuracy before and after Election Day. Husted says the machines are kept “under double-lock and key.” A log keeps track of when authorized personnel access the machines. Both a Democrat and a Republican must each use their keys simultaneously to get into rooms where the machines are stored. Absentee ballots are also stored in these rooms until they are counted. “They’re securely locked away and nobody has access to them,” Husted said.
STATE SEEKS TO ELIMINATE CYBERSECURITY THREATS
Ohio’s statewide voter database is the connected to the internet, though voter registration for the presidential election is closed. Voter data has been saved and stored separately, Husted said. “It’s not subject to a cyber threat. And even if it were, it won’t affect a voter,” he said.
Husted’s office has worked with FBI, the state and U.S. departments of Homeland Security, the National Guard cybersecurity unit, private security experts and others to find vulnerabilities in Ohio’s system. “And if they were able to find any, then we fixed them,” Husted said.
ELECTION OBSERVERS WILL BE AT POLLING PLACES
Committees for ballot issues, political parties and candidate campaigns can appoint election observers to monitor people casting ballots at the more than 8,800 precincts across the state. These designated observers are regulated by Ohio law. They’re separate from the poll workers who are trained and paid to help administer voting. Voters may also see law enforcement officers at polling sites. But anyone campaigning for a candidate or slate of candidates must be 100-feet from the entrance to the polling location.
JUDGE ISSUES ORDER TO BLOCK VOTER INTIMIDATION ACTIVITY
A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign and a GOP political operative aimed at preventing Trump supporters from harassing or intimidating Ohio voters during Tuesday’s election. U.S. District Judge James Gwin ruled in a lawsuit filed by the Ohio Democratic Party that anyone who engages in intimidation or harassment inside or near polling places, regardless of political alliance, would face contempt of court charges.
Husted says he’s not aware of any credible, organized voter intimidation threat — only political rhetoric. People engaging in voter intimidation or disruption at the polls would be removed. “And they’ll be arrested and subject to potential prosecution, because voter intimidation will not be tolerated.”
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