October 6, 2016 – Casting a vote is a proud, deliberate act of conscience and will. It is a badge associated with being part of a democracy. Elections are the ultimate source of authority in our democracy. We are marking a ballot expressing our choices and at the same time, signifying our belief in the system that our vote will be counted. Casting a vote is also an act of trust.
Some have questioned whether voting systems are safe, whether a vote cast will be tabulated correctly.
The security of Nevada County voting and our voting systems is a top priority for me as Registrar of Voters for Nevada County. Election security preparedness is my major concern every day, not just when there is an impending election. We constantly review and refine our voting procedures and practices including chain of custody procedures, seals and logs pre-election, on Election Day and post-election. Risk management practices and controls, including the physical handling and storage of voting equipment and ballots, are important elements of our work. The goal is to deliver a process that is not only safe and secure, but also fair, accurate and accessible.
Our electoral process is not exactly a single, hackable system. There is no central U.S. voter database. A national hacking of the November Election is highly improbable due to our unique, decentralized process. Our system is diverse, subject to local control and has many checks and balances built in. Each state and locality conducts its own system of voting developing standards and security requirements for equipment and software.
Furthermore, no component of our voting system is connected to the internet. Our in-precinct scanners, electronic voting machines, electronic rosters, tally machines, on-demand ballot generation, central scanners, electronic signature verification and reporting systems are not internet-based and do not connect to each other online. They’re islands among islands.
Before each election, we publicly conduct logic and accuracy testing of our voting machines to ensure they are working and tabulating properly. The machines are then pre-defined under supervision, sealed and accounted for, until election day, to prevent tampering.
After the election, we conduct a canvass which includes a review of the vote tally, provisional ballots and a mandated post-election audit. All of our voting machines have triple redundancy: paper ballots, hard drive and memory card. Our electronic machines all have a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). The canvass process is designed to further guard against deliberate manipulation of the election, as well as software, hardware or programming problems.
Because elections are subject to local control, it is important for voters to engage in the process, including witnessing pre-election testing of the voting system and working at the polls as poll workers. In my opinion, the election process works better with full engagement from all. It is not too late to become a poll worker for the November election, contact the Elections office if you are interested.
I am concerned about social media or more specifically, social engineering. For example, posting a comment warning of violence at a polling place(s) (even when there is none), could have a negative influence on voters, keeping them away from the polls for hours or even completely. In any election, spreading fear and confusion among voters is a real concern. This type of social engineering is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election. Please call the elections office or check the Nevada County elections Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Nevadacountyelections/, if you have any questions or require information of any kind.
The Nevada County IT professionals have been working with our department and have been extremely vigilant and ready at a moment’s notice. We also realize solid support from the California Secretary of State. To date, there has been no indication from national security agencies to states that any specific or credible threats exist when it comes to cyber security and the November 2016 General Election.
The last day to register to vote is October 24, 2016. Please register, and please vote. We understand you are trusting us to have a safe, secure, fair, accurate and accessible election. We certainly will deliver. You can have the utmost confidence in our election process.
Gregory J. Diaz
Nevada County Clerk-Recorder
Registrar of Voters