There has been a steady barrage of news articles in the media recently raising concerns about the security of our nation’s voting apparatus. The Sapulpa Times interviewed Creek County Election Board Secretary Joy Naifeh to discuss the integrity of Oklahoma’s voting system, specifically, Creek County’s voting system.
“The people who wrote the (State) Constitution decided that the elections should be conducted by one commission, so to speak, and it would be entered into the Constitution. That’s the way it was to be done, so every county would conduct their elections in the same manner. which I think was very intuitive for people in 1907,” Ms. Naifeh said.
Naifeh remarked that when she worked for the State Election Board, there were only five states that had a state-wide system.
“All the rest of them have a conglomeration. Sometimes it will be just one city, like Los Angeles, or a county. So you have a lot of political forces you are dealing with. We don’t.”
Governor Henry Bellmon, in 1988, joined forces with others to pass a bill that would provide the State of Oklahoma with voting devices and insisted on paper ballots, to facilitate an accurate recount, if needed.
A paper ballot that is marked by hand is then fed into the voting machine which optically scans the ballot. This provides a hard copy of the vote, as well as an electronic tabulation. As mandated, every precinct in Oklahoma utilizes the same voting machines. Each County Election Board communicates with the State Election Board over a secure network and at no time is the internet used to transfer data. The ballots are transported in a sealed container by a Creek County Deputy to the Sheriff’s Department’s secure storage facility for thirty days. After 30 days, the ballots are transferred to the Election Board’s secure storage facility.
To further enhance security, the State Election Board solely owns the software used to program the voting machines, the voter registration system, and the secure, dedicated, network that is used to communicate with county election boards. Only State Election Board employees can work on the machines. Only State election officials can set up an election. State election employees set up the elections for all the precincts in seventy-seven counties.
Naifeh said each precinct has its own voting machine, and the County Election Board has a machine for early voting and one for absentee ballots.
States throughout the country have experienced a number of problems with “electronic-only” voting machines, such as the “hanging chad” debacle in Florida in 2000. They have experienced system intrusions by hackers. Oklahoma has had none of these problems.
The Secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board Paul Ziriax called Oklahoma’s voting system, “One of the most reliable, most accurate, most secure, most efficient, most cost-effective, and speediest voting systems in the entire world.” Ziriax stated the biggest threat to the 2020 elections is “misinformation that undermines the confidence in elections.”
Oklahomans can be proud that their voting system is considered one of the most secure and efficient on the planet.