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Flagler’s Elections Supervisor Urges Confidence in Voting System: Your Ballot Won’t Be Hacked

| August 15, 2018

Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart at a candidate hobnob organized by the Chamber of Commerce last month, where a straw poll was also conducted. (© FlaglerLive)

Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart at a candidate hobnob organized by the Chamber of Commerce last month, where a straw poll was also conducted. (© FlaglerLive)

Note: The Flagler County Canvassing Board met this morning to start counting the first batch of mailed-in ballots, expected to be in the thousands. 

By Kaiti Lenhart

Each election year it seems  election officials have the same conversations with voters to debunk the myths and rumors spread about the voting process. Voters might hear that absentee ballots are only counted when a race was close. Not true, I’d say. Mail ballots are counted in every election and are among the first results you see at 7 p.m.  on election night.

This year is different. Now conversations are about our defensive posture against cyber-attacks and spear phishing. Voters are asking, “What are you doing to protect my vote?”

Election administration is now considered part of our nation’s critical infrastructure. This designation, made early last year by the Department of Homeland Security, has opened a floodgate of resources for elections officials. It has changed the way we approach technology and conduct elections. Your Flagler County Elections Office has partnered with the DHS for a risk and vulnerability assessment of our network. We also participate in weekly network testing to ensure the voter registration database is protected. Our application for federal grant funding to improve election security was recently approved for Flagler’s portion of $19 million allocated for Florida. This funding is vital as jurisdictions across Florida have made final preparations to harden their elections infrastructure in time for the 2018 election cycle.

In Flagler County, we’re already ahead of the curve in terms of technology. Our voting system was upgraded last year to replace 19-year-old optical scan tabulators and touch screen electronic tabulators. Now every voter in Flagler County casts his or her vote using a paper ballot. Paper ballots cannot be hacked.

The state mandates retention of every voted paper ballot, preserving the opportunity for a full audit of an election. Many voters do not realize that manual audits are required in Florida. After each election, the Canvassing Board randomly selects one race and one precinct for a manual hand count of the ballots for comparison to the machine totals. Our rigorous testing procedures prior to an election and this manual audit afterward ensures each ballot has been counted exactly as each voter intended. In my experience over the past nine years, every manual audit in Flagler County has been 100 percent accurate.

While the physical voting equipment has been upgraded, the vote tabulation server remains in a closed network and is not connected to the Internet. The voter registration database and vote tabulation database are maintained on separate servers, which allows for a full reconciliation of voter history versus ballots cast. This reconciliation also happens in polling sites throughout the day during early voting and on Election Day. Each of Florida’s 67 counties maintains its own local voter registration database and voting system. There is no single point of entry to affect outcome. In my opinion, the paper ballot, off-line tabulation and decentralized process are the greatest strengths of elections in Florida.

The mission of the Supervisor of Elections Office is to enhance public confidence, encourage citizen participation and increase voter awareness. Why? Your vote matters. Florida is the largest swing state in the nation. Our elections are so close that recent polling shows several races in this midterm could go either way. Your trust in the electoral process is essential for the success of democracy. Voter confidence has been shown as a strong indicator for higher turnout in elections. In other words, if you believe your vote is counted and makes a difference, you are more likely to show up at the polls. I believe that a well-informed and active electorate builds a healthy community.

Did you know that only 19.25 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in our last midterm Primary Election? Your vote this year will send partisan candidates to the General Election for our next U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative in Congress, Governor, Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture and County Commission. At least one local, nonpartisan race (School Board, District 4) will be decided during this Primary on August 28.

Party affiliation aside, every voter in Flagler County is eligible to vote for Circuit Judge and School Board races. All voters within the city limits of Palm Coast are eligible to vote for the next Palm Coast City Council Member in District 4. Let’s make history and show the world that Flagler County cares about these national, state and local elected offices. If you have not voted in a Primary election before, I personally challenge you to vote this year. Every election is important. Voting has never been easier or more accessible than it is today. You can choose to vote by mail, vote early or vote on Election Day, August 28. Early voting begins this Saturday, August 18. Make your voice heard, vote in every election!

Kaiti Lenhart is the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections and a member of the Canvassing Board.

8 Responses for “Flagler’s Elections Supervisor Urges Confidence in Voting System: Your Ballot Won’t Be Hacked”

  1. Richard says:

    Yeah RIGHT! All government officials LIE and ours in Florida are NO exception. If an eleven year old boy can hack into the Florida voting system within 10 minutes and change both the names and the ballot count, who are you going to trust, the eleven year old boy or the voting officials who are telling you that “it won’t happen here”. Stop lying to the people of Florida and try telling them the straight up truth for a change.

  2. DoubleGator says:

    I worry that the voter roles could be hacked , revised or manipulated. How is this issue addressed? Glad there is a paper ballot.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    Richard above is right a 10 year old hacked the voting system in Florida was the news. Also Senator Nelson just came up with his statement that already Russians are manipulating our Florida voting system.
    Paper ballots help, but the scanner computers reading them can change the tallies. I hate to be under the communist control now!

  4. Anonymous says:

    The Florida Voter Roll Data Base has been hacked not once but twice that I can remember and the Secretary of State, Ken Detzner tells us all is OK an that no information was compromised; can you imagine the reaction if he told us any different? Detzner has NOT explained why the statewide system was hacked twice or what he has done to secure it!! Maybe Detzner should start asking the tough questions and provide some evidence to his claims. It is my understanding that the Florida Voter Registration Data Base is about to collapse as no improvements and upgrades have been done in years.

    As for hacking ask the former Leon County SOE about hacking—This hacking job is for real!

    I am concerned about our elections and the fact that we have a Governor that appoints the Secretary of State who would be a puppet rather than we elect our State Chief Election Official. Detzener is a former beer lobbyist and has been known to not get a long with Election Supervisor’s— it is so refreshing to know that he is on the way out the door; he was never qualified to be Secretary of State.

  5. the thing is says:

    its funny that people are so afraid of hackers changing votes yet they fight for the right to vote without an ID

  6. Anonymous says:

    Forget the damned computer’s and go back to all paper ballots and OFFLINE individual tabulators and if necessary hand counts. Computer’s do more faster, but if the accuracy isn’t there for whatever reason, what good are they? The Russians or anybody else can’t hack your computer system if your not using one. This not an outlandish idea, there have only been computers involved in our elections for less than 40 years.

  7. gmath55 says:

    I vote to STOP the ridiculous political ads on TV! They are nothing more then half-truths, mug slinging, and waste of money.

  8. Steve Jones says:

    doesnt matter anyway, in the last presidential election the only two real choices were so bad that i dont think i will ever vote in this country again

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