RICHMOND, Va. — Security on Election Day is a top priority for the staff at the Virginia Dept. of Elections. There is extra funding on hand and more positions in place to make sure your vote is safe.
Elections officials say Virginia was one of the states whose systems were scanned by Russian hackers in 2016. While there’s no sign the hackers gained access, more is being done now to make sure your voter information is protected.
Two years ago, the Commonwealth did away with touch screen voting equipment and moved towards ballots voters have to fill out themselves.
As an extra move to protect your information, the technology used to count your vote don’t connect to the internet. This includes the machines used to scan ballots as well as the poll books used by some localities to check voters in, Commissioner of the Dept. of Elections Christopher Piper says.
“So, we have a nice, strong, security posture in the polling place on Election Day,” Commissioner Piper added.
Virginia received about $9 million in funding for cybersecurity to protect voters, which was signed by President Donald Trump in March 2018. This has been used to boost security as well as to develop plans in case Virginia’s systems were breached. The money is also used to help local registrars as well.
On Election Day, state and federal partners, such as the FBI and Virginia State Police, are also working to keep tabs on any misinformation about the election spreading on social media. This is shared with elections officials to put a stop to it.
“Ultimately, our greatest defense is information sharing,” Piper says.
One recent example, Piper says, is when a post on Facebook was shared thousands of times saying voters needed a Real ID at the polls. When alerted about this post, elections officials worked with social media companies to get the post and the shares erased completely from the website.
In Virginia you are required to have a photo identification at a polling place, such as a driver’s license. There are more than 10 acceptable forms of identification to vote, click here for the full list.
The General Assembly also signed off on a new position that will use technology to make sure when you register to vote, that you’re assigned to the correct polling place. This role is important this year in particular. A number of House of Delegates districts were redrawn after a court found 11 voting districts sorted black voters into certain areas, which is also called racial gerrymandering.
“While that’s not been a huge problem before, what we have seen in the past is that errors have occurred and we want to make sure that everyone is placed in the proper precinct,” Commissioner Piper added.
Election Day is Tuesday Nov. 5. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. If you are in line at a polling place at 7 p.m., you will be able to vote.