What Maryland is doing to ensure election security this year

There's an effort in the town of Kensington, Maryland, to lower the voting age to 16 years old for local elections. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)(Getty Images/iStockphoto/BackyardProduction)

With mail-in voting underway and early in-person voting set to begin Oct. 26, Maryland is working hard to keep its voting systems and data safe and secure, as well as prepare for possible cyberattacks.

The state switched from touchscreen voting machines back to paper ballots in 2016. The machines that scan the paper ballots and tabulate votes are not connected to the internet, but Maryland does have online registration and ballot request systems.

So there are numerous ongoing, overlapping efforts to protect the system as a whole.

Art Treichel, chief information security advisor for the Maryland State Board of Elections, said the state has added a system to defend against threats from social media.

“To help with impersonations, help with misinformation and other types of social media attacks that may come up during the election,” Treichel said during Thursday’s board meeting, the last meeting scheduled before the election.

The state’s elections websites are tested weekly by the Department of Homeland Security. DHS looks for security vulnerabilities and lets the state know if it finds any.

Maryland leaders have also been running their own tests in the runup to the election to make sure they’re ready for a wide range of possible problems.

“We’ve participated in a number of tabletop exercises over the past several months to help test and prepare our teams for potential events,” Treichel said.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the elections board approved contingency plans to ensure that the election continues even if equipment fails or there is other trouble of some kind.

The plans include directions for checking in voters if electronic pollbooks fail, what to do if ballot scanning units fail and how to proceed if a court orders voting hours to be extended.


Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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