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Ohio Secretary of State visits Lawrence County

On Wednesday, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose stopped by the Lawrence County Courthouse to talk to the board of elections. He talked about new security measures that will make Ohio elections safe from outside interference and the measures he is asking the boards to take to ensure it.

“What we want to do is make sure Ohio is the best-prepared state in the nation to defend the infrastructure of our elections,” LaRose said.

To that end, LaRose recently issued what he called a “pre-flight checklist,” a mandate of steps all 88 election boards are to take to make sure that election equipment isn’t interfered with and all votes are counted accurately.

On the list of things to do is install software that provides security alerts if some unauthorized person gets into the network, do background checks on all permanent board of election employees and vendors, have an annual assessment and training on both physical security and cyber security, set up a service that helps identify if an email is legitimate or one that contains malicious code, and the Secretary of State’s office will provide counties with the Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Logging system that works similar to an airplane’s black box to monitor the election equipment.

The board of election will work with the Department of Homeland Security to run several tests to look for vulnerabilities in network security.

“Just look at that as a checklist of things to do,” LaRose told the board. “When you complete that by next January, which I am confidant you will based on the pilot program we have done with the other three counties (Wood, Miami and Hocking counties), you will be able to tell the voters of this county, and I will be able to tell the voters of the whole state of Ohio, that Ohio is the best prepared state in the nation to defend against cyber attacks as it relates to our elections. That is where we want to be.”

LaRose said that no board of elections wants to think of the alternative, which is that elections results are hacked and their courthouse is filled with federal agencies investigating the attack.

Lawrence County Board of Elections Catherine Snider told LaRose that the list seems overwhelming but that she had “already completed my July tasks.”

“A lot of it is that we want you to be requesting the services of the Department of Homeland Security,” LaRose said. He added that DHS is already referring other states to the “Ohio model” when it comes to election security.

LaRose said that one thing he is pushing the Ohio Legislature for is Senate Bill 52, a cyber security bill.

One specific part he is interested in is the creation of a group called Ohio Cyber Reserve. The group would be the computer professional equivalent of the National Guard which could be called out when board of elections need help to deal with computer cyber attacks.

The Lawrence County Board will be getting new voting machines on July 22.

Board of Election member Randy Lambert said that the board was excited that once it is election time, the state will be among the most secure in the nation and the county’s voting equipment will be amongst the most current and up-to-date in Ohio and possibly the country.

“We are proud of that,” he said.