MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—Secretary of State Mac Warner recently brought together county clerks and local election officials for a historic and unique conference that focused on security for West Virginia’s election systems and voting equipment.
“Election security is national security and West Virginia has taken bold moves since the 2016 elections to bolster election security,” Warner said. “A significant aspect of election security is to communicate the threats amongst local, state and federal election officials, and our simulated election training was a key part of putting plans in action.”
More than 160 county clerks and their staff members from all over the state were in attendance Monday and Tuesday. The conference in Morgantown demonstrates the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office’s commitment to work with federal agencies and local election officials to provide accurate and secure elections.
“We wanted to present our local election officials and poll workers with real life challenges that they could face preparing for and hosting an election. The conference attendees learned very quickly that we all have to work together to address each and every challenge that may come up,” Warner said.
The event also highlighted the seriousness of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s designation of elections as a “critical infrastructure sector”—a sector whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.
This week’s events drew national attention due to the focus on election security at the local level. The election security conference featured influential speakers that was keynoted by Matt Masterson, a Senior Cybersecurity Advisor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Masterson congratulated West Virginia on taking the lead in bringing local election officials together to talk about election security.
Attendees also heard from Major General James Hoyer who is the Adjunct General of the West Virginia National Guard regarding the ability for the National Guard to assist in securing polling locations during events such as natural disasters and the cyber partnership between the West Virginia Secretary of State and the West Virginia National Guard.
The training featured a comprehensive day-long series of mock election preparation as well as Election Day scenarios. Attendees were divided into three separate “states” and placed in individual rooms and held a mock election in a compressed time.
Attendees were also educated on Warner’s proposal to distribute $6.5 million in federal funding to counties to help them address upgrades in voting technology including voting machines, security for voting equipment and cybersecurity upgrades. There is also funding that can be used to help address ADA needs for polling locations. The funding is West Virginia’s portion of the money allocated by Congress through the “Help America Vote Act” (HAVA) to help address election needs at the local level.
Warner’s narrative letter describing the distribution of HAVA funding for election security and voting equipment upgrades can be reviewed here.