Warner to discuss election security at national meeting

PARKERSBURG — The secretary of state of West Virginia has been asked to speak at a national meeting on election security.

Mac Warner will discuss what the state has accomplished at the National Election Security Summit on Monday and Tuesday in St. Louis, Mo.

Topics at the meeting, to be held at World Wide Technology’s global headquarters, include the best practices with state and federal elections officials, security and technology. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Election Assistance Commission and Elections Infrastructure-Information Sharing and Analysis Center also will attend.

“This is a great way to assist other states by sharing the good things West Virginia has done to be recognized as a national leader on this issue,” Warner said. “We take election security very seriously and will do whatever it takes to protect one of our greatest institutions.”

Warner brought together county clerks and local election officials from West Virginia for the Elections Security and Preparations Training Conference in Morgantown. The conference, which focused on security in West Virginia election systems and voting equipment, received national media attention.

Election security is at the forefront because of the interference by Russia in the 2016 presidential election, according to Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes. Rhodes last year was appointed by President Trump to a commission on election integrity, which has since been disbanded,

A prime concern is hackers getting into a voters registration database and making changes, such as party affiliation or precinct, he said. It causes disruption in the process when the voter shows up at the poll, but the altered records show the voter is at the wrong place and not of the party for which they claim to be.

Wood County is being proactive on election security, including protecting precincts from disruptions on election day, County Commission President Blair Couch said. Physical disruptions to the process are possible, too, he said.

An aim of hackers interfering in an election can be to create doubt in the authenticity of the election returns, Couch said. For example, while the voting machines are not interconnected or connected to the internet, a hacker could change the counts on the online reporting of results and cause suspicion that the bonafide count is not credible, he said.

“That could impune the integrity of our election system,” Couch said.