Election officials work to keep your votes safe in 2020

Security is top of mind as we enter a very busy election year
Published: Feb. 5, 2020 at 10:26 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - 2020 could be one for the record books when it comes to voter turnout.

Before many people even think about heading to the polls, there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

With that in mind, you may see or hear about extra protections at the polls this year.

“We make sure everything runs smoothly on election day,” Vicky McDowell, supervisory election judge in Cape Girardeau County said.

Sixteen years ago, Vicky McDowell stepped in to help out with the polls in her hometown of Jackson, Missouri.

She has seen quite a few changes over the years.

“When they brought in the iPads that really sped up the voting process,” said McDowell.

Also changing these days is how voters feel about election day security.

“The biggest concern I would have is that people would let fear and misinformation stop them from participating,” Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said.

Secretary Ashcroft said voters have a number of opportunities to make an impact this year.

“It’s a lot, but the good thing is you know it’s coming,” Secretary Ashcroft said. “2019 was not as busy so that made for a good opportunity to work with local election officials and make sure they’re ready for 2020.”

That includes a new cyber security initiative using federal money.

“We are using that to essentially have white hat hackers, go to local election authorities and attack their systems,” Secretary Ashcroft said. “See what their policies, procedures, networks, hardware is like and see if there are any vulnerabilities."

If there are any problems, he said they work to fix them ahead of time.

The FBI is also reportedly committed to inform state officials if local election systems have been breached.

In the past, the FBI would alert local governments about attacks on their electoral systems without automatically sharing that information with the state.

That meant state officials could be left in the dark.

This year, there’s no room or time for error.

“Every day is filling up with different things, I mean all of these elections coming up are overlapping,” Cape Girardeau County Clerk Kara Clark Summers said.

The Cape Girardeau County Clerk looked at her calendar for 2020 and took a deep breath, knowing all that’s coming.

She recently met with election officials from all across the country.

“They’re thinking this is going to be the highest turnout,” Clark Summers said.

With that in mind, she is also focused on security.

“For example, with the ballots we do a random draw of several precincts and they go through and hand count those ballots to make sure nothing was miscounted, that everything matched up,” Clark Summers said.

She said there are many checks and balances.

“Which I love it that we have these different auditing procedures and it’s open to the public, people can come and view it if they like,” Clark Summers said.

While there is no such thing as perfection, the Secretary of State said there’s something you should keep in mind.

“When people worry about secure elections are I always find it comforting, and I think they find it comforting when they see who is actually running the election,” Secretary Ashcroft said.

It’s not just the elected officials, it’s people like Vicky McDowell who is looking forward to working with voters this year.

“It’s a blessing to be able to do this in this country, and to get to help them when they come in and their votes are secure.”

If you are interested in helping out at the polls, election offices across the Heartland are always looking for people to help out on election day.

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