Federal Election Security Money Requires Cleveland-Area County to Hire Vendor

The Ohio Secretary of State is requiring every county election board to meet cybersecurity standards in a series of phases.

by Star Beacon / July 27, 2018

(TNS) — JEFFERSON, OHIO — Ashtabula County, Ohio’s Board of Elections is considering a local company to help it meet new cybersecurity protocol handed down by the state.

Members, at a Wednesday morning meeting, authorized director Duane Feher to negotiate and enter into a contract with CompTech of Ashtabula to handle a mandatory security assessment. Election officials had some preliminary discussions with the firm, which has not submitted a quote for its services.

The Ohio Secretary of State is requiring every county election board to meet cybersecurity standards in a series of phases.

Ashtabula County has already complied with the first two steps — signing up with certain security-based organizations — and is working to complete the third and final phase: creation of an election infrastructure security assessment.

Initially, officials thought the work could be done in-house using the county’s information technology staff. However, about $30,000 given to the election board through the Department of Homeland Security for the project must be spent on an outside vendor, not existing personnel.

Work on the assessment — a lengthy checklist of precautions — must commence no later than early next week and be completed by Oct. 15.

Officials want the vendor to be local from a service and “continuity” viewpoint, said Charlie Frye, deputy director. CompTech was the most viable of the vendor options, officials said.

County IT personnel will still be involved in the process.

The state of Ohio received $12 million from the federal government toward the election cybersecurity project.

The board also approved a $6,000 contract with Triad Governmental Services to help launch a system that will help disabled voters participate in elections using a home computer. Called a remote ballot marking system, the software will allow a voter to “receive an accessible ballot securely and privately,” according to an Ohio Secretary of State directive issued in January.

“The voter can access, read and mark his or her ballot using the remote ballot marking system and any necessary assistive technology,” according to the directive.

Once the ballot is marked, the voter prints it and returns it to the election board office for counting.

The remote system, which abides by conditions contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act, must be in place and functioning by Sept. 1. The county received $16,000 in government funding to help launch and maintain the system.

©2018 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.