Ohio’s 2018 Democratic Secretary of State candidate Kathleen Clyde on Wednesday announced two new bills that would secure Ohio’s elections from cyber hacking and foreign interference by making sure every voter’s ballot is counted and protected.
“The machinery of our American democracy was attacked in 2016, and urgent bipartisan action is needed to protect our voting systems,” Clyde said. “At this crucial time, we need to invest in the strength of our democracy by upgrading to voting machines and systems that will allow us to conduct secure elections that can withstand foreign attack.”
A January 2017 U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment showed that Russia attempted to interfere with the U.S. presidential election and will do so again, said Clyde, who serves as a state representative in the Ohio House.
Clyde’s legislation begins a process for converting every Ohio county to voter-marked and voter-verified paper ballots. It officially codifies into Ohio law post-election audits that are already being conducted by many counties and have received praise from voting advocates nationally. Clyde’s legislation also establishes a cybersecurity director and advisory council for the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office.
The Ballot Security and Verification Act will require every Ohio county to move to voter-marked, voter-verified paper ballots which are the best way to handle the unique challenge of elections.
“Many Ohio counties have been transitioning to voter-marked, voter-verified paper ballots and it’s time that the rest of the counties make the change as well so that the entire state is using paper ballots in 2019,” Clyde said. “We need to take this step to use paper ballots and secure counting and auditing to ensure trustworthy election outcomes.”
Clyde said counties will still be able to use high-speed ballot scanners to produce quick and accurate results on election night, but to protect against machine tampering or failures, the Ballot Security and Verification Act will ensure officials have a reliable paper record to verify the result. She called on the legislature to help counties with the cost of the new machines.
“As the legislature looks to the future of voting machines in Ohio, it must ensure our local communities have the resources they need to run fair elections that are safe from cyberattacks,” Clyde said.
By requiring audits be performed after every election, the Act effectively verifies that results are accurate and that tabulation machines have not been compromised.
The director of elections cybersecurity in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, created by Clyde’s Elections Cybersecurity Act, will be responsible for conducting regular assessments of threats to Ohio voter registration, vote casting, and vote tabulation systems, and any other information technology systems used by the secretary of state’s office and county boards of elections.
To advise the Secretary’s office on cyber threats and best practices, Clyde’s cybersecurity act creates the Elections Cybersecurity Council, a cross section of election officials, voting advocates, and cybersecurity experts overseen by the director of elections cybersecurity.
Clyde announced her new legislation at the annual conference of the Ohio Association of Elections Officials in Columbus Wednesday. The OAEO is a bipartisan organization of Ohio’s county boards of elections, elections directors and deputy directors “dedicated to the training and education of its members to ensure fair and accurate elections for all Ohioans,” according to the group’s mission statement.
Several elections officials spoke out in support of Clyde’s proposed legislation following her announcement.
Sharon Locke, director of the Huron County Board of Elections, stressed the importance of protecting every vote.
“These are common-sense steps we can take to make sure every vote is counted, nobody is meddling with our machines, and we have a paper trail to verify the results of our elections,” Locke said. “These bills will let every voter in Ohio rest assured that our democracy is safe from these malicious attacks.”
Tim Burke, chair of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, said that America has long been a beacon for democracy throughout the world and protecting Ohio’s elections from hackers is crucial to preserving that great tradition.
“Ohio plays a crucial role every election cycle so when foreign actors with bad intentions look to attack America, they target our great state,” Burke said. “This is why it’s so important that we take every measure to protect our voters and our elections from these attacks. The bills proposed by Rep. Clyde will make sure Ohio elections are safe and secure and that democracy continues to thrive in the Buckeye State.”
In 2017, the Brennan Center issued a report on securing our elections from foreign influence that recommended many of the security provisions Clyde has brought forth in her bills, including the move to paper ballots and requirements for post-election audits.
“Cyberattacks against computer networks and systems have increased dramatically worldwide in the last few years. There is no reason to believe that our elections will be immune from such attacks in the future,” said Larry Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program. “Fortunately, we know what we have to do to ensure free and fair elections. These bills from Rep. Clyde will increase security and public confidence in the integrity of our system. And importantly, they will do so without interfering with the right of any eligible citizen to participate in our elections.”
The Brennan Center, based out of the New York University School of Law, is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve America’s systems of democracy and justice.