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Assessment of WV Security Profile

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In January 2017, the West Virginia Secretary Of State prioritized the review of the 2016 election procedures and completed a full assessment of West Virginia’s election security. The assessment identified many areas for improvement, upon which immediate action was taken to resolve previously unaddressed vulnerabilities of West Virginia election security.
In 2017, WVSOS immediately implemented cybersecurity training programs for local election officials that covered spear phishing, password protections, and best practices for using the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS).
Important West Virginia election security practices include the ability to audit results and mandatory public testing of voting equipment by local election officials. Post-election audit procedures are possible due to the statutorily required voter verified paper trail (VVPT) for all electronic tallying voting machines.
Each of West Virginia’s 55 counties are in compliance. As part of every statewide election, logic and accuracy tests are run on each machine upon delivery from the vendor.
West Virginia also requires a post-election hand count audit of 3% of precincts, selected at a random at canvass, to ensure accuracy of the voting equipment. If a variance of just 1% is identified, or if the outcome of any race changes as a result of the audit, the entire county must be recounted by hand.
The move away from federal funding for maintenance of the SVRS and increasing funding priorities to include election security has put the state-level systems in a position to have a long-term and stable funding source for cybersecurity. However, any cyber system is only as good as the weakest link. West Virginia will continue to stay dedicated to increasing its protections, bolstering its detection capabilities, and staying prepared for corrective action if and when an attack occurs.
Auditable paper records of votes cast are the strengths of West Virginia’s election systems that allow for a fail-safe option of recreating election results in the extremely unlikely event of tabulation errors occurring. The WVSOS is currently studying advanced audits that will limit any risks of electronic tabulation used in other states for feasibility in West Virginia.
While West Virginia has leveraged every resource possible from existing funds and new funds to the County Grant and Loan Fund, the SOS office estimates that local election officials’ efforts will result in only half of all registered voters having access to new or upgraded election systems by the 2020 elections.
“I find the most important financial need moving forward is to replace local voting equipment with new, more secure equipment,” reported Warner.
West Virginia’s economic situation since the first round of HAVA in 2002 has deteriorated and many less-populated counties simply do not have resources to prioritize funding election systems over debts that continue to rise, such as increasing jail bills and underfunded road maintenance. Even with the matching opportunities for voting equipment and cyber upgrades that we will offer, local funding opportunities are proving difficult as West Virginia is just now beginning to recover from the economic storm of recent years.
Funds to acquire HAVA mandated machines that come with the latest and greatest technology and protections simply do not exist in many counties.

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