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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jul. 30, 201805:10 AM EST

Protecting the vote: ‘We have every control that’s conceivable’

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Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan says the voter rolls and process in Duval County and Florida is secure.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Whether an election has been or could be swayed by outside influence or meddling is a national debate.

But concerns about whether every voter’s ballot is safe, secure and sure to be accurately counted is another question with a simple answer in Florida and Duval County.

“We can dispel that fear,” said Mike Hogan, Duval’s supervisor of elections.

He said the state has adopted policies and practices approved by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, the federal agencies that monitor and regulate the sanctity of elections.

The security process begins with registered voter list maintenance, he said.

“List maintenance is required by law. We clean the voter rolls from deaths, people who have moved and people who are also registered in other states,” Hogan said.

The voting process, whether by mail or at a polling place, is conducted to ensure the highest level of security.

Paper ballots are used in all counties, and the tabulators, the machines at each precinct into which voters insert their completed paper ballot, aren’t connected to the internet, which could make them vulnerable to hackers.

The tabulators electronically record votes for each race on two thumb drives, a primary and a backup.

“Even if someone could hack into our computers, they can’t hack into the tabulators,” Hogan said.

When the tabulators are returned to election headquarters after the polls are closed, the data is transferred to the election office’s computerized vote tally system, also not connected to the internet, and all the computers in the elections office are equipped with multiple security firewalls.

Even with 21st-century technology, the primary vote safety factor is the one in use since hundreds of years ago when the first vote was cast and counted.

“The bottom line is that we have a paper ballot, so we can go back and count them by hand to verify our results if we have to. That’s the beauty and value of a paper ballot,” he added.

Hogan admits alleged possible attempts by foreign entities to taint the 2016 national election has had a psychological effect on some American voters.

“If the Russians were involved, they know that just the fact that they were attempting is going to cast doubt on the accuracy of our count. They wanted to undermine the confidence of the American people in the election process,” he said.

However, Hogan is confident every vote is safe in Duval County.

“We have every control that’s conceivable. We didn’t have any problems in the last election, but we’re constantly checking ourselves,” he said.

“Don’t worry if your vote is safe. We’re worrying about it for you.”

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