Secretary of State tours board of elections

Photo by Janelle Patterson Washington County Board of Elections Director Mandy Amos, right, shows Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose equipment used to count votes in the county's elections during a visit to Marietta Wednesday.

Costs of upgrades to elections equipment, cybersecurity and increasing participation in elections were the focuses of a state visit to the Washington County Board of Elections Wednesday.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose toured the board’s offices in the basement of the Davis Avenue building Wednesday.

He asked questions about backup power capabilities and how poll books are secured between primary, special and general election times.

Washington County Board of Elections Director Mandy Amos and Deputy Director Peggy Byers said they were surprised to hear of LaRose’s work that could save the county $75,000 in purchasing new poll books–electronic tablets used to sign in registered voters on Election Day.

“We don’t want people to have to buy new poll books when these are (less than) three years old,” said LaRose, stating he is working with electronic systems companies that Ohio counties contract through to push for better cross-cooperation between systems.

Amos and Byers also explained how the office is now seeking adult poll worker applications for the November election so that training can begin. Once schools are back in session youth can also be recruited to work on Election Day.

They toured the Emergency Operations Center where poll worker training will again take place this year and noted that additional training will be required as the county begins to integrate electronic voting machines in addition to the paper ballots.

But the visit was more than just an introduction of the freshman administrator. LaRose used the morning to field financial concerns facing small county elections, answer questions concerning a new cybersecurity directive to be in place before the 2020 primary and signal coming proposed legislation to update voter lists.

“We’re about to oversee what may be the most contentious election year, and we know the world’s eyes are going to be on Ohio,” said LaRose. “I recognize that (cybersecurity directive) is not an easy task… but I think of it like a preflight checklist before the 2020 election.”

Required upgrades include:

1. Install intrusion detection devices, provided by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office to provide security alerts in the case of a network intrusion.

2. Conduct an assessment and annual training on cybersecurity and physical security.

3. Conduct criminal background checks of permanent board of elections employees, vendors and contractors performing sensitive services.

4. Utilize software built to prevent email spoofing.

5. Use the state’s Security and Event Management Logging System, a figurative black box tool to determine in the event of intrusion what activity occurs.

6. Request by Friday:

• Risk and vulnerability assessments on network security.

• Remote penetration testing.

• Architectural design review within communications operations.

• Cyber threat hunt by the state to determine if the current network has been compromised.

Amos also pointed out that at least one township trustee in each township across the county is up for reelection/ unseating this fall as are several village office positions and all township fiscal officer positions.

“And the school boards each have at least two seats coming open again,” she added, noting Wolf Creek has three this fall. “Those petitions need to be in by Aug. 7.”

Meanwhile, adult poll workers are asked to apply by Aug. 15 to be selected and trained in October following the Oct. 7 voter registration deadline.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

Upcoming dates:

• Aug. 7: Deadline to turn in petitions for village offices, township trustee and fiscal officer candidacy and local school board positions.

• Aug. 15: Deadline for adults to apply to be poll workers for the November election.

• Oct. 7: Deadline to register to vote in the November election.

• Oct. 15: First tentative training date for poll workers.

• Nov. 5: Election Day.

Source: Washington County Board of Elections.

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