“There’s a reason other states are looking to Ohio,” he said. “We’ve challenged our counties to make significant and challenging improvements well before voters begin casting their ballots; setting up the security redundancies necessary to achieve a successful election.”
MORE: Election Day: Board of elections report minor issues with new voting machines
To be in compliance, boards of election must also have secure website and email domains ending in “.gov” or “.us.” The requirement forced Montgomery County to move its election site to a new domain, montgomery.boe.ohio.gov, an operation the office conducted Friday. The site has been located at a “.org” domain.
The directive admonished election officials, board directors and employees from conducting official business via email addresses from email or internet service providers.
Miami County’s Board of Elections completed most of the work done a month ago because the office was one of three included in a pilot project the secretary of state used to test the initiative, said Laura Bruns, Miami County Board of Elections director.
“It helped them clarify how the directive would be written, so we were really lucky in that we had all that assistance early on and were able to accomplish most of the things on the checklist before the end of last year,” Bruns said.
Former Miami County Board of Elections Director Beverly Kendall was fired last year following an investigation into the Nov. 6, 2018, election that revealed 6,288 uncounted votes. The problem occurred when voting machines were not shut down properly because of a lack of training and human error, LaRose found during an investigation. The votes, which did not change any election outcome, were cast by early voters on touch-screen machines in the elections office.
MORE: State removes Miami County from election oversight
Llyn McCoy, Greene County Board of Elections director, said the county’s data processing department was able to complete the work in less time than expected with the purchase of only one piece of equipment.
“We were surprised that it didn’t take more work than it was,” she said. “They made it very seamless for us.”
All three counties will be using new voting systems for just the second time for the March 17 primary with early voting beginning Feb. 19. Deadline to register for the election is Feb. 18 when election offices will be open until 9 p.m.
No elections employees were flagged during background checks conducted in the three area counties, the officials said.
New Greene County elections workers have been subject to background checks since 2015, McCoy said. Longtime employees did undergo a recent check.
MORE: What local counties are doing to protect your vote
Miami County put a new policy in place to meet the directive’s requirement. The sheriff’s office conducted the checks for four full-time and two part-time elections workers through the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Bruns said.
“All of our employees passed with no issues,” Bruns said. “That extended to anybody who is touching our network.”
Montgomery County has conducted background checks now on 28 workers, each costing about $45, Kelly said. More part time elections worker will also undergo the checks, she said.
“Everybody came through clean and everybody is still working here who was subject to the background check,” Kelly said. “Anybody who touches a ballot or has access to anything at the board of elections should be background checked.”
The Secretary of State’s Office will review the county progress reports that were due Friday and is expected to present the results on Wednesday.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office offered one-time, $50,000 grants to assist counties implementing the security changes. In 2017, the United States Department of Homeland Security designated U.S. election systems as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure and the next year Congress appropriated $380 million in grants to the states to secure and improve election systems.
GET READY FOR ELECTION DAY
- The deadline to register to vote for the Ohio primary election is Feb. 18.
- Early voting starts on Feb. 19.
- The Ohio primary is set for March 17.
Stay up to date on the upcoming election on our Ohio Politics Facebook page
The Iowa Caucuses are Monday, officially launching the 2020 presidential eleciton. In Sunday’s paper, we take a look at how the election is shaping up in Ohio just a few weeks before early voting begins.