State takes steps in voting security

By Marc Kovac

The directives were developed with assistance from a bipartisan work group.

COLUMBUS — Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner issued two directives to county elections boards Wednesday aimed at improving security at their offices and facilities where voting equipment and supplies are stored.

The directives are among the first announced since the Democratic officeholder played host to a security summit last month in Columbus, and additional official instructions are expected in coming weeks as Ohio prepares for potentially historic turnout in November.

“Preparing for a successful election for our state depends on consistent standards, no matter where someone votes,” Brunner said in a released statement. “Every county will be developing security plans based on ‘best practices’ developed in cooperation with local elections officials. This is designed to guarantee a uniformity of rights for all of Ohio’s voters.”

She added, “Many of these security recommendations have been characterized as common sense and are already in use across Ohio. Others will require training and new procedures by boards of elections. We believe these security procedures will help us ... ensure voter confidence and to be prepared for any scenario, including a record turnout.”

One of the directives sent to county elections boards outlines minimum security and access requirements officials must follow for voting machine memory cards, ballots and other electronic media.

Instructions included keeping such materials in a locked storage room, limiting access to authorized personnel, keeping careful records on the location and use of ballots and other inventory and maintaining climate control and other protections for those items.

The other directive outlines security measures and procedures for elections offices and facilities, including requiring employees to wear identification badges, escorting visitors into and out of offices and documenting elections equipment use.

The directives were developed with assistance from a bipartisan work group and further discussed by Brunner and county elections officials during last month’s summit.

Additional directives will be released in coming weeks, potentially including one dealing with so-called sleep-overs, in which poll workers take election equipment and supplies home during the weekend before an election, then set them up at polling places.

Spokesman Jeff Ortega said Brunner has been concerned about that issue and is continuing discussions with county elections officials.

“It could be addressed in some of the other directives,” Ortega added.

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