“One of the things the voter should do, is vote. Get out there an vote. They can only undermine our voter confidence or affect our elections if people stay home and have a lack of interest,” - Nadeen Manzoni, Pike County Elections Director
MILFORD - To help reassure voters and restore confidence in the electoral system, Pike County Commissioners hosted a presentation about election security, in advance of the May 15th Primary.
“Since the 2016 election there has been a lot of media attention about election security or the lack thereof in this country,” said Nadeen Manzoni, Pike County Elections Director, during the May 2nd commissioners’ meeting. “There’s a lot of rumors and hype going on.”
Never has happened
She stressed, “There has never been a case in Pennsylvania or the country for that matter, where a voting machine has been hacked into and the results altered.”
“Also likewise there has never been an interception of electronic submission of election results between counties, the state and the federal government, where the results have been altered, despite what’s implied and the perception that’s out there now,” she said.
Voters in Pike County have been using electronic voting machines since the state required them following problems the State of Florida experienced in 2000 during the Presidential election.
Machines not online
Manzoni pointed out that the machines used in Pike do not utilize internet-facing programs and are unable to be connected to the internet or any network.
Before an election the county manually tests each machine, checking the calibration, casting test votes multiple times and printing reports as they go. These are compared to be sure they are getting the proper results. between elections, the machines are sealed and securely stored in the Administration Building. A secure chain of custody is employed when taking them to each polling station.
Once set up, a “zero report” is printed out, stamped and signed by poll workers to show the machines have not received any votes ahead of time.
Poll workers check the number of voters coming in with the number of ballots cast. A running total is tallied.
The zero report and final report are posted at the polling station. A copy of the election result reports is carried to the county election office; another copy goes home with the Minority Election Inspector.
County election bureau staff manually tally the results. These are posted on the county website, and results are faxed rather than electronically sent, to the Department of State.
The Judge of Elections brings the machines back to the Administration Building. The memory cards from each machine are hand delivered back to the county on election night, and are stored and locked away.
Department of State workers check the faxed results against the county’s posted online results.
On Friday after the election, the county canvases the vote. Seven days after the election they certify the election. Thirty days after the election, the county reports them again. Each time, the Department of State is notified. These procedures, she said, are designed to counter any attempt of a cyber attack to alter results.
Dominion Voting Systems sends a representative to help the county test each of the voting machines and ADA-compliant devices.
“The machines are pretty much tabulators; they are not computers,” Manzoni said. “What you are going to put into them is what you are going to get out of them.”
She said there has never been a case of a machine being used to flip votes from one candidate to another.
New machines in 2020
Pike County has used these machines since 2006 and have served very well, she stated. “Greater technology, I believe, is not more secure,” she noted. The state has mandated that by 2020, the counties should have new voting machines in place. The target roll out date is November 2020, in time for the next presidential election.
The process of finding new machines has only just started. The state is discussing funding options. Manzoni speculated that as technology advances, the life span of our machines will continue to shrink, and counties will probably be looking at yet another machine in 10 years.
Threat is real
Expressing confidence that elections in Pike County are secure, Manzoni stated that the cyber threat facing the country is real. Every state uses a statewide voter registration database. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State have been contacting county officials. If they detect a threat, they contact the county I.T. department to know what to look for.
Successful breach to a statewide voter database, as there was in Arizona and Illinois did not alter any results. She added that if there had been, it would have “caused a lot of chaos and confusion at the polls if voters were showing up at the polls to vote and all of a sudden their records aren’t there”- or there was some discrepancy with county records.
Polls workers have been trained this time around to recognize and report any spike or discrepancies in voter records, Manzoni stated. Additional, paper provisional ballots will be sent out to the polls in the event a voter’s information does not match what the county has on file or there is a discrepancy of what party they are registered, or where they are supposed to cast their vote.
“Even if the worst should happen, a voter is going to be able to cast their ballot on election day,” the Pike Election Director said.
Helping to protect America’s electoral process is the fact that voting is so decentralized, she said, with states and counties varying widely in methods and rules of voting.
Although cyber threats have not successful physically altered election results, Manzoni said that they are “undermining vote confidence in our elections.” The result, she said, is lower turnout and a lack of trust in election results.
Voters can check their voter status at votespa.com.
If they do notice a discrepancy, a voter can call the county election office to have it straightened out.
Voters can also carry an I.D. with them. A first time voter or an inactive voter is supposed to bring a photo I.D. to the polls. She said having an I.D. is good practice for any voter in case there is a discrepancy. They would be given a provisional ballot to allow them to cast their vote.
Lastly, stay informed, Manzoni said. “The best thing that people can do is to know ahead of time who they want to vote for,” she said.
“One of the things the voter should do, is vote. Get out there an vote. They can only undermine our voter confidence or affect our elections if people stay home and have a lack of interest,” Manzoni said.
Meanwhile, Wayne County continues to use paper ballots. Wayne County also switched from the old mechanical lever machines to an electronic system after 2000, but a couple years later reverted to a paper system.
Cindy Furman, Director of the Wayne County Bureau of Elections, said that they are, however, switching to an electronic means for voters to sign in at the polls. The paper register books are going away. Twelve precincts already use them, and 11 more will have them for the May 15th Primary. The remaining 12 precincts will have the new electronic sign-in procedure this November, she said.
The purpose is to more efficiently sign in voters as they come in, especially when there is a long line.
The electronic sign-in books, Furman said, are not connected to the internet and cannot be hacked.