Senators Daniels and Paxton attend conference on election cybersecurity
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislators from several mid-America states recently met in Lincoln, Nebraska to examine the issue of election cybersecurity, voter registration system protection and other related issues. State Sen. Julie Daniels and Sen. Lonnie Paxton were chosen by Senate Pres. Pro Tempore Mike Schulz to attend the forum, which was sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
“Before attending the meeting, Senator Paxton and I met with State Election Board Secretary, Paul Ziriax, to discuss what our state is doing to ensure the integrity of the process,” said Daniels, R-Bartlesville. “In listening to legislators from other states, I think Oklahoma has done an excellent job of avoiding many of the problems others are facing now. The presentations were thought provoking and sobering. I am grateful that the Oklahoma Election Board is preparing to enhance and upgrade our system while other states are just getting started. Our state and county election officials are doing a great job for Oklahoma voters.”
Earlier this year the U.S. Congress approved $380 million for “Help America Vote Act” security grants to be used for security upgrades and other improvements to federal elections. Oklahoma’s grant was about $5.1 million contingent upon a five percent match by the state (approximately $250,000). The State Election Board is using excess 2018 candidate filing fees to pay the state match. The meeting, which was held on August 30 and 31, focused on potential foreign or domestic cyber threats, the human factor in securing elections, voter registration system protection, threats to reporting results and communications strategies. Attendees also heard from representatives of the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the Center for Democracy & Technology, and Democracy Research.
“I came away more aware of the kinds of threats our states are facing, but feeling even more assured about the steps Oklahoma has already taken to prevent these potential attacks on our election process,” said Paxton, R-Tuttle. “We know hackers are always looking for new ways to exploit the system, but with the work being done by our State Election Board and by taking advantage of educational opportunities like this conference, I believe we are actively working to address concerns and prevent our systems from being compromised.”
Ziriax said the state takes threats to election security very seriously, but noted the biggest threat is from bad actors working to undermine the public’s faith and trust in our election system through disinformation.
“Rest assured that state election officials and our partner agencies are communicating, cooperating and coordinating with each other and with federal agencies to identify potential threats and take steps to protect against them,” Ziriax said. “Oklahoma has one of the most accurate and reliable voting systems in the world, and our election system features robust physical and digital security to safeguard the integrity of elections. In recent months we have significantly strengthened the security of Oklahoma's election system, and more enhancements are on the way.”