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Opinion: W.Va. Secretary of State to deter threats against election systems, processes

From the Office of the W.Va. Secretary of State:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner is working to protect West Virginia election systems and to provide voters with confidence that our election results are true, accurate and protected against wrongdoing or fraud.

An important part of the Secretary of State’s job is taking meddling in any election – in any manner – very seriously. The designation of elections as “Critical Infrastructure” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security exemplifies the significance with which state and federal law enforcement treats potential threats against our democracy, as well as the efforts necessary to deter potential bad actors from engaging in all potential nefarious activities related to elections processes and systems.

During the 2018 election cycle, the Secretary of State referred a matter to the United States Attorney’s Office which might have been an unsuccessful attempt to gain uninvited access to the system. The incident occurred during the pilot rollout of West Virginia’s “military mobile voting solution,” an application for eligible overseas voters to receive and return their ballot securely using a mobile device.

The application utilizes multiple layers of biometric security (facial recognition and thumbprint) for identity verification, as well as Blockchain technology and voter-verified ballot receipts for security. Several security audits were conducted before and after the election. To date, the audits and assessments have all resulted in positive results. However, during the pilot rollout, the application vendor identified activity that could have been an attempt to gain uninvited access to the system.

“Every safeguard designed for the system was very successful and worked as designed: to gain as much information as possible, and protect the sanctity of the voters’ identities and ballots,” Secretary Warner said. “Although the details of the investigation cannot be disclosed, we can say that no votes were altered, impacted, viewed or in any way tampered with.”

Warner‘s office fully investigates every attempt to gain uninvited access into any election system to discourage and deter any attempt at intrusion into West Virginia’s election systems.

“Elections in America and West Virginia are secure,” he said. “Heading into the Presidential Election of 2020, it is time to communicate with our voters that we take every single potential threat very seriously. We want our voters, and especially every bad actor, to know that no expense will be spared to investigate even unsuccessful attempts of gaining uninvited access to any portion of any election system.

“There’s not a shred of evidence that even a single vote was changed in the 2018 election. Because of our hard work and our investments, all of our systems worked according to plan, and more robust security measures and protocols are being deployed ahead of 2020.”

Note: The word “unauthorized” has been changed to “uninvited” when describing the attempt to gain access to the mobile voting application system. The word unauthorized requires a legal conclusion, which has not been made at this time. So to avoid confusion or an improper inference, the word “uninvited” is accurate at this time.

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