Guest Columnist

Election commissioners: Working together to protect Iowans' votes

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate talks with Adrian Evans' AP US Government class at Kennedy High School before they cou
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate talks with Adrian Evans' AP US Government class at Kennedy High School before they counted straw poll ballots in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

The 2020 elections are rapidly approaching, and we want Iowans to know your state and local election officials are working together to protect your vote. Foreign adversaries and bad actors around the world would like to disrupt U.S. elections and sow discord in our country. We are dedicated to preventing that in 2020.

Every state considers itself a target. There are hundreds of thousands of cyber alerts on State of Iowa systems every single day. However, we are working with a variety of county, state and federal partners to ensure every effort to infiltrate our systems is blocked.

One key component of Iowa’s elections that protects against hacking is paper ballots. Every election in our state uses hand-marked paper ballots. The machines that count the votes are tested in all 99 counties before each election. Representatives from the political parties, media, as well as members of the general public, are invited to attend these tests. There is also an extensive chain of custody with each piece of voting equipment, and postelection audits are conducted in every county.

The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office has taken numerous steps to protect elections at every level. Through partnerships with the state’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), free cybersecurity resources are provided to all 99 counties. This includes cybersecurity training, intrusion detection, malware prevention and constant monitoring.

Our statewide voter registration database, I-Voters, was moved in 2017 to a new facility with top-level security protections. Numerous upgrades have been made and the system is constantly monitored. Each week, DHS and OCIO conduct scans the system. I-Voters has a variety of defenses in place to detect and prevent any unauthorized intrusions. A monitoring system called VoteShield tracks all voter registration changes, detects any anomalies and is available to every county auditor.

We must remain constantly vigilant to protect our systems. This is a team effort and we are working together to ensure your vote is safe.

Combating misinformation and disinformation is another battle election officials face. There is no evidence Russians hacked a single vote in 2016, but they did create doubt in the minds of Americans and used propaganda to try to influence the election. The best way to combat that is uniting as Iowans and looking to election officials for accurate information.

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If you have any questions about elections in Iowa, the Secretary of State’s Office and county auditors are your trusted information sources. We are the experts in the field and the go-to sources for relevant information about voter registration, polling locations and election laws.

We all are committed to the goal of having the cleanest, fairest elections possible. Election security is not a partisan issue. It’s one we all take very seriously, and we are working together as a team to protect the sanctity of the vote in 2020.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and his Auditor’s Working Group include: Rhonda Deters, Grundy Count; Denise Fraise, Lee County; Jennifer Garms, Clayton County; Pat Gill; Woodbury County, Amanda Harlan, Monroe County; Sandy Hysell, Union County; Kourtney Irlbeck, Carroll County; Roxanna Moritz, Scott County; Margie Pitts, Clay County; Amy Sathoff, Emmet County; Grant Veeder, Black Hawk County; Amanda Waske, Ringgold County; Karla Weiss, Winnebago County; and Melissa Wellhausen, Page County.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.