Portage County Board of Elections adds new security measures


Portage County Board of Elections adds new security measures

With many Americans worried about the upcoming election after the Iowa Caucus, Ohio and Portage County with the help of Homeland Security have managed to stay on top by recently adding a new security service protocol. The state received funding through the Help America Vote Act’s HAVA Grant. Portage County Board of Elections Deputy Director Theresa Nielsen said that Portage County directly benefits from the grant.

“Every state in the US could ask for HAVA funds for cyber security purposes. We are one of the only states where that Hava money made it to the local entities,” said Nielsen. 

The new security measures will help ensure the security of future elections, including the upcoming Ohio primary and 2020 presidential election. 

“It really just locks us as a department down from not only other departments in the county,” said Nielsen, ”but also from nefarious actors who may want to somehow try to get in our system.”

The Iowa Caucus left some voters fearful about the security and reliability of the election process. According to a C-SPAN poll in October 2019, only 31% of Americans believe the government does enough to keep our elections secure. After security threats in the 2016 presidential election and elections here in Ohio, the Portage County Board of Elections is working to ensure that their elections are defended technologically as well as ethically. 

“I think there’s a thought process that it won’t happen to us,” said Nielsen. But, it happened in Akron, it happened in Wayne county. I mean it’s happening in other localities, and so we’ve just taken extraordinary measures to make sure it doesn’t happen here in portage county.” 

Although changes have been made behind the scenes, voters can continue doing what they always do – showing up to the polls and casting their vote.

“The security of our election system hasn’t really changed. I mean the tabulation system, what the normal voter is gonna see also has not changed,” said Nielsen. “We have just done things with our internal networks to make them more secure to keep people out.”

The Ohio primary election will take place on March 17th. 

Welleed El-Mobasher is a TV2 correspondent. Contact him at [email protected]