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Election Integrity Seminar Spotlights New Security Measures

Published: Oct. 21, 2019 at 7:26 PM EDT
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With Election Day 2019 just two weeks away, local and state officials met for a seminar on Sunday to address just how secure Virginia's elections really are.

The event, Sunday Seminar “Election Integrity”, was organized by the League of Women Voters. The League says the forum was to give voters an opportunity to ask questions of election officials and highlight the steps the state has taken since election systems in several states were breached in 2016.

"Unless people can have confidence in the election process. Unless we can be sure of the accuracy of our vote, then all our confidence in being able to elect the people that we want to serve, who we want to serve, is going to be undermined," Carol Cutler, the event's organizer and League of Women Voters member, explained. "Unless we can have that security."

Chris Piper, the commissioner of Virginia's Department of Elections, was the event's keynote speaker. He said the hacking attempts in 2016 were a wake-up call about the security of voting systems nation-wide.

"Everyone is aware of what happened in 2016," Piper said. "What we can all be sure of is that nobody has just stopped and given up and said we'll just go on to something else."

While Virginia's election systems weren't breached, Piper said foreign powers did attempt to hack in.

"They scanned us," He explained. "So, essentially, the best metaphor or analogy for that is: they came and they jiggled the door handles and they looked through the windows and found that 'Hey, we can't get in here, so we're just going to go to the next house'."

The Department of Elections took multiple steps to shore-up security, including updating certifications, increasing the number of security audits, and working more close with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Locally, the city of Charlottesville is also making changes to ensure increased election security.

"We just started working with our city IT department to increase and make sure there's no hacking in the city system," Melissa A. Morton, the city's general registrar and director of elections explained. "We're also working with the state; there's a lot of new procedures out there and we just have to work with them."

Citizens can get involved too, by staying informed and voting.

"The important thing is to participate in the process and make your voice heard," Piper said. "I think that's the most important thing that anyone in this country can do."

The League of Women Voters will also be hosting a candidate forum on Monday, October 21 from 7 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. at the Crozet Library.