BEND, OR -- Oregon's May Primary is about eight weeks away, and Deschutes County elections officials are working to make sure the local system is hacker proof.
Oregon isn't one of the states affected by Russian election tampering, but Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship says that's no excuse not to remain vigilant. According to Blankenship, because Oregon's voting system doesn't utilize the world wide web, the ways a Russian operative could game the system are exceedingly few, "The Russians would have to physically come here and attack from inside our office," she tells KBND News, "So, they'd have to have a physical presence, and I think we'd notice that." But, she says they're still working to improve security, despite the low risk, "We've replaced our security cameras and added some more. We've added some new walls and some security within our office area as a way to enhance our customer service."
Blankenship says every county in Oregon is required to provide a security plan to Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, at the beginning of the year. And, Richardson's office has been supplying resources, as well, "The Secretary of State's been offering some different online courses, as far as being aware of cyber attacks, being aware of phishing expeditions and different types of ploys that are used to gain access to your system."
While she isn't too worried Russian hackers will access the system, Blankenship is concerned about those who spread misinformation that might impact the voters. "How do you know who's out there doing what? How do you combat what they say? And how do you have the time to do the due diligence in your research to know who they are, what they've said, and how to get the word out to the people that they have connected with to try and write the story?"
Oregon is approaching the 20th anniversary of vote-by-mail, and Blankenship says that system provide ease for the voter, while making it nearly impossible to hack or modify a ballot.