On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Kentuckians will flock to their respective polling places to cast their votes for the 2019 general election, one year shy of the 2020 presidential election.

While these are certainly tumultuous political times both at home and abroad, the question is, not who are you going to vote for, but is your vote safe?

The short answer, at least on the local level, is yes. Not because of technology, but a lack thereof, said Richard House, Daviess County chief deputy clerk.

"The machines are never connected to the internet and there's no wi-fi capability," he said. "Each machine has a MBB (mobile ballot box) card that the poll workers pull out. They bring that back and that is what is read at the polling place and it goes to a system that isn't connected. The only time the internet comes into play is when the results are downloaded to the secure state server. At no point does anything dealing with votes on our level touch the internet."

The trends regarding advancement in voting machines revolve around voter-verified paper trails. The purpose of these paper trails is to ensure the integrity of electronic tallies through providing the voter with a physical "voter-receipt" verifying their choices, which is important given that computerized voting equipment is inherently subject to programming error, equipment malfunction or malicious tampering.

"All voting machines going forward will always have to have a voter-verified paper trail, the paper ballot machine," he said. "Voter verified paper trails are becoming the trend. Everyone is going low tech, because it is paper, it is the safest route. If something occurs ... then there is a reliable backup. The voter registration system will always have people trying to hack it. Hopefully, the state and federal government will continue to safeguard against that."

Aside from low tech, physical security redundancies are a key aspect to protecting local elections, House said.

"Those machines, held at the county operations center, are housed with camera, alarms and card reader access that only a few have access to," he said. "They are watched closely. When we load the machines on election day, we drop them off and they are secured on-site until the polling place is open. All machines have seals and if one was broken we would be alerted. As far as voting records and hard copies, those are kept in a secured and locked room away from the public. That includes the computer used to collect the ballots and upload them to the Kentucky Board of Elections secured server."

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com.

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