“Your voter data is secure,” Oklahoma agencies prepare for runoff elections

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OKLAHOMA CITY - As Oklahomans prepare to vote in the runoff primary election Tuesday, the state's election board said there are "no specific threats" to security.

"We’re working with our partner agencies to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect the integrity and security of elections in Oklahoma," said Paul Ziriax, secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board.

At a press conference Monday, Ziriax was joined by officials with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. The agency has reportedly been working for months in preparation of Tuesday's election.

While he was unable to disclose specific details, Ziriax said Oklahoma's election system had been "significantly strengthened" over the past 18 pasts.

In 2017, U.S. Homeland Security announced Oklahoma was one of 21 states reportedly targeted by Russian hackers. In Oklahoma's case, however, it was later confirmed the only activity from hackers was a surveillance scan of the state's public computer networks, not the election system.

Bryan Dean, with the state election board, said - in the world of cyber-security - surveillance scans are common. Hackers were looking for obvious vulnerabilities but unable to find any.

Shelley Zumwalt, Director of Public Affairs for OMES, said they have acted largely as a supporting role to the election board in mitigating threats and monitoring cyber security.

"Due to the sensitive nature and confidentiality of the security measures that have been implemented, I cannot reveal specifics on the actions we have taken other than to say, to the citizens of Oklahoma, your voter data is secure and, when you cast your vote tomorrow, it will be counted," Zumwalt said.

Ziriax said, from his perspective, the biggest threat is an effort to spread disinformation about elections in general as an attempt to discourage people from voting at all. He urges voters to be skeptical of what they see and read online from unverified sources.

"If you’re seeing a hashtag, you know ‘rigged election’ or something on Facebook or Twitter, I’d be very cautious about that because that’s more than likely coming from people who want to discourage you or want you to distrust the system," he said. "We have a great voting system in Oklahoma, and it’s very accurate, it’s very reliable and we’re doing everything we can and making improvements everyday to secure our system."

Still, Ziriax admits other threats could exist which is why digital and physical security measures remain in place, such as the chain of custody, when it comes to ballots.

"Those ballots are never out of anyone’s hand. They’re first in custody of the election board, they’re provided to the precinct election board, then the voted ballots and un-voted ballots are delivered back to the election board and are secured with the sheriff on election night and then no one has access to those once they’re secured on election night," he said.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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