Clark County working to meet cyber security requirements for March elections

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Clark County was listed as being a good-faith partner by the Ohio Secretary of State?s office this week and had ?minor additional action required.? County officials said they are currently working with an outside vendor to meet the requirements of the directive, especially those related to ...

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Members of the Clark County Board of Elections expect to meet all the requirements laid out in an election security directive from the Secretary of State’s office before Feb. 19 when early voting starts for the Ohio primary election.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose named Clark County on Wednesday as one of a handful of counties in the state that have yet to meet the full requirements of a 34-point security checklist released by his office last year. Those updated security measures are meant to provide a broad defense against any attacks on election infrastructure.

However, Clark County was listed as being a good-faith partner by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office this week and had “minor additional action required.” County officials said they are currently working with an outside vendor to meet the requirements of the directive, especially those related to cyber security.

Jason Baker, the director for the county’s board of elections, said the shortfall in meeting the new security directive had nothing to do with the new voting equipment purchased by the county last year for $1.3 million.

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The directive was first laid out by LaRose’s office in June and it is focused on five different aspects of election security; including physical security assessments and improvements, background checks of personnel, cyber-attack detection and tracking hardware and security training.

“There will inevitably be attacks on our election system. We have to be vigilant, and this successful implementation of our security directive leaves no doubt that Ohio is the best prepared state in the nation.” LaRose said in a statement.

The deadline for counties to be fully compliant with all the requirements listed in that directive was Jan. 31. However, only Van Wert County was listed as being non-compliant and requiring corrective action by LaRose on Wednesday. His office stated that Van Wert’s board of elections will be placed in administrative oversight.

LaRose also reported that Clark County along with Warren, Hamilton, Ottawa, Carroll, Holmes and Trumbull counties were expected to meet the requirements of the directive soon and that those counties were ironing out minor issues.

“We know that the eyes of the world are on us each time we conduct a presidential election in Ohio. When the world is watching, Ohio will be ready,” LaRose said.

All 88 counties in the state were listed by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office as being 100% compliant with orders to conduct physical security checks, personnel background checks and training for staff, the News-Sun reported. However, LaRose said the compliance rate for required cyber attack detection and network defense steps was 99%.

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A news release sent from LaRose’s office on Wednesday stated that Clark County leaders had agreed to provide additional support to the board of elections so they could meet cyber security requirements before early voting. The release said that a vendor used by the county —for the board of elections’ in-office network— had “failed to provide support as requested.”

Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said there was some initial confusion over how long it would take to meet those requirements and how much it would cost. The Secretary of State’s Office did award a $50,000 grant to the county’s board of elections to assist in those security changes.

The News-Sun was unable to obtain the overall cost to the county in meeting those new security requirements.

Now, Lohnes said most of those issues have been ironed out and the county will be checking back with members of LaRose’s office on Friday.

Baker mentioned that his office is waiting on two cyber security related components to be delivered and hooked up. He said once that happens, his office will be in full compliance.

Unmatched Coverage:

The Springfield News-Sun will continue to provide unmatched coverage of Clark County and Champaign County elections and will continue to provide in-depth analysis on what those local board of elections are doing in order to make sure every vote counts.

Facts and Figures:

The deadline to register to vote for the Ohio primary election is Feb. 18.

Early voting starts on Feb. 19.

The Ohio primary is set for March 17.