CLEVELAND (WJW) – Less than two weeks away from the November 8th midterm elections, there are growing concerns across the country involving security at the polls for voters and the security of their ballots.
In states, including New York and Arizona, there have already been reports of plans by extremist groups to be at voting locations intimidating voters.
Rumors of tampering following the 2020 election have some voters concerned about the integrity of the elections process and whether their vote will actually be counted.
Elections officials in both Summit and Cuyahoga Counties say every measure is being taken to keep voters safe but to also give them confidence in the voting process.
Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Deputy Director Anthony Kaloger says he is aware of some of the concerns from other states, but he tells Fox 8 News he knows of no similar threats in Ohio.
However, if there was an effort at any precinct to try and threaten or intimidate voters, they are prepared to confront it.
“We are prepared we work with emergency management; we have the sheriff’s department so if something were to arise we would be able to act very quickly on it,” said Kaloger.
“We actually have a portion of our team that is actually set up in the emergency management headquarters and we use that to help allocate certain resources, but it’s great to be able to be there, and if something were to arise we are able to step over to another desk and they can connect us with the police department or the FBI or whoever,” he added.
In Summit County where 600 early votes are already being cast daily, Board of Elections Deputy Director Pete Zeigler also says measures are being taken to maintain a safe process on election day.
“There are laws in place that prevent intimidation even down there you will notice those cones with flags, if you are not a voter and you are inside those flags that’s a problem, and we have teams of troubleshooters out on election day above and beyond our poll workers at the polls to help them on things like that, and like I said, we are in touch with the law enforcement agencies in the county,” said Zeigler.
As for the safety and integrity of the votes themselves, both elections officials say Ohio’s process is different than some other states and extremely secure.
“First of all, nothing is connected to the internet. None of our voting equipment is connected in any way to, and in fact, the components to connect it to the internet are removed so somebody couldn’t connect to it. Also, before every election, each of those ballot scanners that you would see at the polling location are tested for logic and accuracy,” said Kaloger.
Both counties also have testing of their equipment in advance of the elections that is open to the public to observe.
“On election night our tabulation system is also not connected to the internet, and what we do is we will get the flash drives from the polling location, those are uploaded into a server that is housed here at the board of elections,” said Kaloger.
Unlike some other states, the handling of all of the physical ballots is bipartisan.
“When the ballots are voted they go right into the machine; the machine counts them, the ballots are in the locked part of the machine, and the bipartisan team working at the polling location takes them out and puts them in the bag, the bag gets brought back to the board by a bipartisan team,” said Zeigler.
“Bipartisan teams maintain custody of them until they are back, once they are back here, they go into our vault and it takes a bipartisan team to get into the vault,” he added.
Cuyahoga County tabulates their votes on a server that is separate from the computer used to send the results to the Secretary of State’s office.
“The Secretary of State provides us with flash drives that are manufactured in the United States. We do plug that flash drive into our tabulation system. We upload the results then we take it to an entirely different computer. Then we upload the results to the Secretary of State’s office. Then that flash drive is set aside and never used again,” said Kaloger.
That way, nothing from the computer that is used to send the results to the state can ever be transmitted to the server used to tabulate the votes.
“Once those results are sent to the Secretary of State’s office, we then verify that yes the results that we sent to them were not somehow apprehended and changed, there’s back and forth communication on election night and after,” said Kaloger.
An audit of votes following the election is also a process that Kaloger says is open to the public to observe.
“After the election in 2020, I heard some people say, ‘Why should I vote? My vote won’t count!’ That is a cancer and a virus, something we have spent a lot of time reassuring people that when you vote your vote will be counted,” said Kaloger.
“We want it to be a busy election day we want the entire early voting period to be busy, so I hope to see them here or on November 8th,” said Zeigler.