EATON — On Thursday, Oct. 10, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose stopped by the historic Preble County Courthouse for a tour prior to the November election. He examined the Preble County Board of Elections and spoke to gathered officials, including Board of Elections officials, Representative J. Todd Smith, and the Preble County Commissioners.
According to representatives for LaRose, his office aims to visit all 88 Ohio counties prior to the election. Preble County is the 70th county they have visited.
Before the tour, LaRose sat down with Preble County representatives to discuss the Board of Elections and address any questions members have. He began by explaining his three reasons for touring all Ohio Board of Elections: his desire to learn from the departments, to highlight the State of Ohio’s election success and security, and to speak about the work the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office is doing with Boards of Elections throughout Ohio.
“I love this work, but I don’t actually run elections. I’m the Chief Elections Officer, but I know that it is you all who do the work of running elections. You train the poll workers, test the machines, open the polls at 6:30 a.m., close the polls at 7:30 p.m., tabulate the votes, do the post elections audit – the real work of running elections happens here and at 87 other Board of Elections. Invariably, as I’ve been traveling around the state, I’ve learned from our Board of Election’s each time,” LaRose said.
He also focused on securities the public might not be aware of.
“The voting machines are never connected to the internet — it’s intuitive to all of us, we know it is actually against the law to connect the voting machine to the internet, but [the public] harbors these notions that [those] kind of things happen. Simple things like: the machines are stored behind lock and key and there has to be somebody from both [political] parties there to even get in the room where the voting machines are stored,” he said.
“Even the way we are configured — a lot of people don’t realize your Board of Elections are half Republicans and half Democrats. A person out on the street has no idea that is how it works. In a time where it seems in Washington they can’t agree what day of the week it is, we have men and women from both parties who come together to do this really complex work of running elections. The only reason why Republicans and Democrats can [come together] and do this work together, is because of the patriotism and dedication of the people involved.”
When speaking of the collaborative work his office is doing with local Boards of Elections, he began by focusing on the security checklist he is requiring the departments to complete by January of 2020.
“I know [Preble County] is well into it. You’ve made good progress on it. We’ve got some counties who are getting close to completing it — nobody has completed it entirely, but I know we will get there by the end of January. This is something that is being noticed around the country. I was asked to travel to Washington two weeks ago and speak at a Cyber Security Conference that Department of Homeland Security was hosting,” he said.
“The reason they asked me to come and speak at this conference was because they want other states to copy what Ohio is doing. They’re telling other states to look at Ohio’s Security Directive and try to catch up. We get calls every week from other Secretary of State Offices throughout the country asking us to send them a copy of our Security Directive. This is something where we can be proud that Ohio is leading the way.”
He added, the 37 checkpoints on the Security Directive are essential to the security of the 2020 Presidential Election.
When speaking of the security checklist, Preble County Board of Elections’ acting prosecuting attorney spoke to LaRose regarding the ongoing facility discussions with the Preble County Commissioners. Following up on the issue of the security checklist, the Preble County Board of Elections requested additional space from the Preble County Board of Commissioners. The BOE feels, in order to honor and complete the security checklist, additional space is needed.
Andrew J. Hinders, Assistant Prosecutor with Mercer County, is acting as the Preble County Board of Elections’ Prosecuting Attorney, as the Preble County Prosecutor’s Office felt it would have a conflict of interest between the Preble County Board of Commissioners and Preble County Board of Elections.
“We all know the punch card days are gone. I remember days you could store the entire voting system in the closet, but those days are long gone. Right now, there is an issue about space, about the equipment that is required, about the security and access that is an issue,” Hinders said. “What we are hoping is, the board would have you look through their physical site and then we can have some conversation. The board has responded to your request — we had your ADA study done, your security study is being implemented, and Department of Homeland Security has completed their study and given their recommendation. We would like you to tour the site and form some opinions about the adequacy of the site. Security has become paramount, along with security comes space requirements.”
“Just to control expectations, I am going to tour the board as I have the other boards I’ve visited. My team that has visited here has told me this is something they think is tight, but the board could live in this space. Could there be better, more efficient configurations? Of course, there are always more optimal situations, we all want better offices. I’m not going to make any pronouncement on what is purely a local question,” LaRose said.
“This is to be — in my mind — amicably resolved between the board and the commissioners. I don’t have any intentions on getting involved in a facilities question like this. That is best determined at the local level.”
LaRose also discussed the following topics:
•Making voter list maintenance as transparent as possible.
•Voting outreach programs which could be offered at the various Preble County school districts.
•New equipment purchased recently.
•Poll worker recruitment.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH