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In light of news reports of attempts to breach voter registration databases in two states by hackers based in Russia, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said she’s confident that West Virginia’s systems are secure.
“We have a secure statewide voter registration system, because we have several levels of authentication,” Tennant said.
She said the office works closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Homeland Security and the FBI to assure cybersecurity.
“We’ve been making sure elections are secure and we’ve been doing it for the past 7½ years,” she said.
Earlier this month, the FBI sent alerts to state elections officials nationwide, following a computer hack of a voter registration database in Illinois, and an attempted breach in Arizona.
That raised concerns about possible attempts to hack into local voting systems, presumably in an attempt to raise doubts about the integrity of 2016 election results.
Tennant said voting systems in West Virginia are not susceptible to computer hacking because no voting machines in the state are connected to the Internet.
She also noted that when the state adopted new standards in 2005 for touch-screen voting machines, both her office and the Legislature were adamant that the machines must produce paper copies of all ballots cast.
“You can trace it from the courthouse, back to the precinct, and right back to the individual machine,” Tennant said of the paper trail to verify votes cast.
In order to rig an election in West Virginia, Tennant said, “You’d have to have 9,000 people in on it,” referring to poll workers statewide who would all have to be complicit.
“The county clerks are not going to allow it to happen, the secretary of state’s office is not going to allow it to happen, and you know the poll workers who take their work very, very seriously are not going to let it happen,” she said.
Tennant said it is critical to assure that voting systems are secure, while not compromising accessibility to the ballot box.
“The secretary of state’s office and election officials take our jobs seriously, and we take election security seriously,” she said.
“We recognize there is even more of a spotlight, a red-hot spotlight, on 2016 elections, and we have secure measures in place, and we are always working with others about secure measures,” Tennant said.