Last week in La Grande, county election and IT officials from around the state participated in an election security exercise organized by the Elections Division of the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The four-hour exercise was intended to increase the preparedness of Oregon’s elections offices to successfully deal with physical and cybersecurity threats during the 2020 election cycle. All 36 Oregon counties belong to the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC), which promotes threat information sharing through all levels of government.
The topics of the training included improving password strength, identifying phishing attempts, and a number of scenarios related to election security. These scenarios gave county officials an opportunity to think of and plan ahead for issues that may arise during the 2020 election cycle. It was noted that Oregon’s vote by mail system makes elections more secure because it allows the state and counties to focus their security resources on the 36 county election offices, rather than having to secure thousands of voting booths across the state. Each of those 36 locations has secured rooms where ballots are tallied, and which are equipped with video surveillance. The tallying systems are not connected to the internet and there is a paper backup.
“We are in a stronger position now than we were for the 2016 and 2018 elections, even though we successfully secured both of those elections,” said Secretary of State Bev Clarno. “The biggest threat to elections is misinformation. That was the biggest problem in 2016 and we expect more of the same in 2020. Just because you read something on social media or online doesn’t mean it’s true. Much of the election information you find online is not accurate.”
“There is a lot of misinformation online saying that non-citizens are being registered to vote. That is simply not true,” said Elections Director Steve Trout. “Only those who have provided proof of citizenship when they go to DMV are automatically registered to vote. There is also a lot of information online saying that our elections were hacked in 2016 and will be hacked again. Do not believe it. Oregon continues to be a leader in secure elections and innovative voter protections, and voters can have confidence that their ballots will be counted as they were intended.”