MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – Vermont’s top elections official said Thursday his office is working constantly with federal officials and town and city clerks across the state to ensure that the state’s elections are secure and free of outside interference.
In a Statehouse briefing in Montpelier ahead of Vermont’s Tuesday presidential primary, Secretary of State Jim Condos said people who use the state’s election computer system must adhere to strict security requirements and the systems are constantly monitored for intrusions or other threats.
But the biggest safeguard of the votes of Vermonters’ come because they are marked on paper ballots that can, if needed, be manually recounted if there are any questions about the outcome, Condos said.
He is also committed to combating what he calls social media disinformation and misinformation, which is harder to defend against.
“There is no question the Russians, the Iranians, the North Koreans and the Chinese are trying to influence our elections,” Condos said. “What they are trying to do at this point is make us look bad. They want to make Democracy look bad.”
In August 2018, Vermont’s election computer system blocked two intrusion attempts into its online voter registration database that originated in Russia. Vermont officials then reported the intrusions to federal authorities.
“Within 24 to 36 hours they issued a nationwide alert to everybody to be on the lookout for these (internet addresses),” he said.
While there are near constant low-level intrusion attempts, none were as serious as the 2018 attempts.
Condos said he felt there is now a greater threat from social media.
“That’s what all the secretaries of states, both (Republicans and Democrats) across this country are concerned about now, is fighting misinformation and disinformation,” he said.
Vermont officials are working with the major social media platforms and there is constant monitoring by federal officials.
“There’s a lot more things in play than we had in 2016,” he said. “The biggest difference between our federal partners and our state partners is communication.”
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