Home Hacking Hacking, Mail-In Ballot Security, and Other Questions Answered by OC’s Elections ChiefVoice of OC

Hacking, Mail-In Ballot Security, and Other Questions Answered by OC’s Elections ChiefVoice of OC

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Election security is generating enormous interest, whether it’s hacking attempts by foreign governments or questions about whether mail-in voting is secure.

As Orange County voters gear up for the November election, Voice of OC has been putting questions directly to the man in charge of making sure the election is secure and accurate: Neal Kelley, the county’s registrar of voters.

In a recent interview, Kelley – who serves on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Election Security Task Force – said cyber scams are attempted on election systems on a daily basis, prompting a major beefing up of local computer security, including installing intrusion detection devices.

Kelley said he “absolutely” feels comfortable with where Orange County is at when it comes to preventing hacking of election systems, but that it’s a daily effort.

“There are scams being attempted on our system on a daily basis. So it just will not go away. It’s going to be ongoing,” Kelley said.

“We continue to work very closely with our law enforcement partners,” Kelley said, adding that security protections on the county election office’s computer network have roughly doubled since 2016.

As far as mail-in voting, Kelley has said it remains more secure than in-person voting, due to signature verification and other protective measures. Kelley said he’s preparing for the vast majority of OC voters – upward of 95% – to cast ballots by mail in the upcoming election.

In anticipation of possible delays in postal delivery, the California Legislature extended the deadline for ballots to be received by the county to 17 days after Election Day, as long as ballots are postmarked by Nov. 3.

The voting process in Orange County will be largely similar to the March primary, Kelley said, including every registered voter being mailed a ballot and having multiple options for casting it: by mail, dropping it off at a vote center or ballot drop box, or voting in person at a vote center.

The main differences, he said, will be new safety measures at in-person voting centers like one-time use pens, physical distancing, open front doors and hand sanitizer.

Here are Kelley’s answers to a second round of questions about voting in Orange County as the November election approaches:

There’s been a lot of concerns around mail-in ballots and whether they’re vulnerable to fraud. You’ve talked about signature matching and other processes in place to protect against fraud. But what do you say to concerns about fraud with mail-in ballots and ballot harvesting? Are they valid? And what procedures and safeguards are in place?

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