State, Federal Officials Closely Monitor Election Security

The Department of State is monitoring the election from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) where state election experts, security pros, and emergency personnel are coordinating throughout the day.

by The Times-Leader / November 7, 2019
Residents arrive at their polling place to cast votes at St. Paul Methodist Church in Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (John Sommers II/Getty Images/TNS) TNS

(TNS) — Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and Christopher C. Krebs, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), assured Pennsylvanians that a sophisticated network of federal, state and local partnerships is safeguarding Tuesday’s municipal election.

The Department of State is monitoring the election from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) where state election experts, security professionals, department staff, call center volunteers and emergency personnel are coordinating throughout the day.

“Pennsylvanians should all vote today with the confidence that their votes are being accurately counted and their voices heard, thanks to our strong partnerships at the state, federal, and county levels to ensure the security and integrity of our elections,” Boockvar said. “We thank PEMA for once again hosting our election-day operations.

“Their state-of-the-art facilities and technology enhance communication and preparedness among all our partners. And we thank Director Krebs and the Department of Homeland Security’s team for joining us today and staunchly supporting our election security efforts.”

Krebs recognized Pennsylvania for its election security alliances and innovation.

“Americans should have confidence that they are the ones picking their leaders and deciding elections without concern about foreign interference,” Krebs said. “Voters have a role to play too. We know that foreign adversaries seek to influence public sentiment and may seek to spread wrong information during the election. I encourage everyone to ignore the noise and get election information straight from the source — from the Secretary of State’s office or their local election office. Armed with this knowledge, Pennsylvanians can go to the polls today with confidence that their vote will be counted as cast.”

The Department of State also works closely with county election officials and Boards of Elections, the Center for Internet Security (CIS), and other key partners to maintain and enhance the security of the election process.

In April 2018, the Department of State informed counties they had until the end of 2019 to select new voting systems that provide a paper record voters will verify before casting their ballot. These new systems – which will deliver enhanced, state-of-the-art security and more accurate and reliable post-election audits – must be implemented no later than the 2020 primary.

So far, at least 53 counties, or 79%, have taken official action toward selecting a new voting system. And 45 counties, or 67%, are using their new voting system today. Luzerne County Council plans to vote on the county manager’s recommended system in December. Tuesday’s election was the last countywide election to use the current machines.

Every new voting system and paper ballot in Pennsylvania must include plain text that voters can read to confirm their choices. Election officials will also use the plain text to perform pre-election testing and post-election audits and recounts.

The Commonwealth uses multiple layers of protection, including 24/7 continuous network monitoring, firewalls, encryption, password protection, multi-factor authentication, and continuity of operations (COOP) planning, among other controls to protect our systems. There is no evidence the voter rolls or vote results have ever been hacked or compromised.

Following this election, Pennsylvania will pilot a cutting-edge security measure, the risk-limiting audit in Philadelphia and Mercer counties to check the accuracy of election outcomes.

©2019 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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