Columbus — Secretary of State Jon Husted reassured voters Sept. 29 that the state’s balloting system can’t be accessed online, and votes cast in the coming presidential election won’t be otherwise switched or discarded by hackers.
During the first in a series of regular conference calls with reporters, Husted also disclosed a letter sent to congressional leaders, urging passage of legislation to block any future attempt by federal officials to take control of Ohio’s elections-related computer systems.
“Under the U.S. Constitution, the right and responsibility to administer elections is reserved to the states,” Husted wrote. “Any attempt to usurp these duties in the name of security is a step too far.”
Husted plans media briefings throughout the remainder of the 2016 general election season. The Sept. 29 session came less than two weeks before Ohio’s voter registration deadline on Oct. 11 and early voting period, starting on Oct. 12.
There has been concern about elections systems being hacked — Arizona and Illinois both had confirmed instances where their voter databases were breached.
“We have had no such attempts in Ohio,” Husted said, adding that cybersecurity issues are “an ongoing concern” for private and public entities, and elections officials have worked to ensure Ohio’s voter database is secure.
Balloting and elections systems, however, are not connected to the internet, Husted said, meaning hackers could not access voters’ ballots to change or delete their choices.
Ohio also has paper trails to verify votes — some 70 percent of ballots are cast on paper, while there are paper backups for electronic machines, Husted said.
On the federal front, Husted he hopes members of Congress will clarify federal law on states’ election systems.
Husted voiced concerns about federal officials potentially attempting to take control of Ohio’s systems following comments last month from the head of the Department of Homeland Security suggesting that systems could be designated as “critical infrastructure,” with a federal takeover if warranted.
“The Constitution gives the states the right to administer federal elections as a check on the power of the federal government,” Husted wrote to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. “If federal law can be used to take control of voting machines and voter databases, then that law must be changed to restore the balance that was intended in the Constitution and has served America well.”
Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.