Election boards to boost election security

By Dean Wright - deanwright@aimmediamidwest.com

GALLIPOLIS — Gallia Board of Election officials spoke with Gallia Commissioners Thursday morning to discuss a state order from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office directing boards to upgrade election security technology.

“This is a more of an FYI type of thing than anything,” said the board’s executive director, Dale Whitt, to commissioners. “The Secretary of State has decided to beef up our cyber security and it’s a statewide project. It’s not just us. They issued a directive earlier in the month, and last week when we went to their conference, it was basically devoted to it…There are about seven or eight guideline sheets along with a letter and a lot of it is marked as do not disclose and those kinds of things. This just gives you an idea of what it is that they want us to do and procedural things. We’ve already initiated some of the items.”

Whitt said the board had been in touch with the US Department of Homeland Security and there is a seven-step assessment needed to evaluate Gallia’s election technology. Gallia Information Technology Officer John Grubb is collaborating with the board in the project.

“The one thing I mostly wanted to communicate with you men is…there is a grant that’s tagged into this and it’s $50,000 to us and to alleviate some of our costs while we’re doing this,” said Whitt. “We met with (Gallia Auditor) Larry Betz and discussed some procedures because the money is to be kept in a separate interest-bearing account.”

“So, we’re going to make some changes that are going to increase our costs for elections and this grant is going to cover that this time, is that right?” said Commissioner David Smith.

Commissioner Harold Montgomery replied he felt the grant seemed like a one time offer.

Smith expressed concern that the security upgrades in the future mandated by the state would rely on Gallia resources and was dubious of further financial support from the state to maintain upgrades.

Previous conversations with the board have indicated that Gallia, and much of the state, are switching to paper ballot technology as well. Reportedly, all measures need to be put in place before the upcoming presidential election.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright