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Official says Oregon elections are secure

I recently learned Oregon was one of the states hacked by the Russians. Since we have vote-by-mail, and therefore a paper trail, I’m wondering what information they got from our voter rolls and how it can be used against us. What is the state doing to ensure a clean election for the midterm elections coming up in November?

— Anonymous, Medford

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson recently returned from a meeting with other secretaries of state from around the nation and had a briefing with the Department of Homeland Security and FBI officials.

He posted about the outcome of the meetings on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website under the heading “How Secure are Oregon Elections?”

Richardson, a Republican from Southern Oregon, said Russians conspired to undermine American confidence in the election system.

He said while Oregon was one of 21 states whose voter registration system was targeted, no access was obtained. Although seven states may have had their files compromised, the Department of Homeland Security assured him Oregon’s voter database was not breached.

Vote tally systems in Oregon were also not hacked, he said.

Richardson said he believes Oregon’s voting system is a national leader in regards to cyber security and protection from malicious outside intrusions, but the state is continuing to evaluate and improve security.

He said security steps include backing up Oregon’s registration database every day. Detection devices are in place to notify the state of any attack. If the database were to be hacked, Oregon could restore the database to the previous day’s uncorrupted backup file, then focus on changes made during the time in question to ensure the accuracy of every voter registration record.

When it comes to voting, Richardson said the state’s counties use voting machines that are certified for security. They are never connected to the Internet and are physically secured at all times. All ballots are counted in secure rooms equipped with security cameras in each of Oregon’s 36 county election offices.

Ballot counting machines are tested for accuracy before and after elections, Richardson said.

Before ballots are counted, test ballots are run through tally machines to ensure the results match up with how the test ballots were marked, he said.

The same process is followed after the election to make sure there was no change to the programming of the ballot counting machine, Richardson said.

Every Oregon county elections office also audits a random sample of ballots, tallying them by hand and making sure the results match up with published results, he said.

“We are in the middle of an information war, and that is why I am determined to be transparent and give you real information about how your government is serving you,” Richardson concluded.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.