COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state’s elections chief expressed confidence in the security of its electoral process, saying he’s been working with state and federal authorities to identify and address vulnerabilities to the system.
The comments from Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted on Thursday came a day after the FBI’s director told Congress that there have been “attempted intrusions” into voter registration databases beyond what was previously known and that the agency is looking “very, very hard” at Russian hackers who may try to disrupt the U.S. election in November.
There have been no such attempts against Ohio’s voter registration database, Husted told reporters Thursday in a conference call.
Last month, the FBI warned state officials to boost their election security in light of evidence that hackers targeted data systems in at least two states, Illinois and Arizona.
Husted said his office has been working with the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Guard, private security experts and others to find vulnerabilities and make security updates.
“This can only limit threats,” Husted said. “I’m not going to suggest that it can eliminate every threat.”
The state’s voter registration database is connected to the internet, but the system and devices people use to cast ballots are not, he said.
Every vote in Ohio has a verified paper trail, Husted said. And voter registration data is backed up daily, so the most recent information is available.
“If any attempt were successful, it could only create minimal disruption,” Husted said.
Husted also said he was sending a letter to congressional leaders detailing concerns he has that the federal government could take over the state elections system. He said he’s opposed to any attempt by Homeland Security to designate election systems as critical infrastructure, a classification that would give the issue priority within the department.
A Homeland Security official attempted to assuage such concerns in a congressional hearing on Wednesday.
Andy Ozment, assistant secretary of cybersecurity and communications for the department, said the government has confidence in the overall integrity of the U.S. electoral system. He stressed that the federal government is working with states to ensure that the system is not breached but that federal authorities have no intention of taking over state election systems.
Husted said he wants that clarified in law.
“If nobody wants it,” he said, “then we should clearly say they can’t do it in the law.”
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