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Grimes Says Election Threats Warrant New Security

Josh James
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes addresses the Kentucky Election Integrity Task Force ahead of the May 22 primary on April 19, 2018.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says state election systems remain secure, but the top election official warns it’s a never-ending battle against new and emerging threats.

"No evidence exists to suggest that these bad actors altered any votes in any way," Grimes reassured Kentucky voters Thursday, before holding up a copy of indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The secretary spoke with reporters following a meeting with Kentucky’s Election Integrity Task Force – made up of representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the state attorney general’s office, and other law enforcement officials – a month ahead of the May primary.

"I'm not going to say no one has ever attempted to hack because we are confronted daily with thousands of probes at our system," the secretary said. "Everything from abroad to folks right here domestically."

Grimes listed a number of security precautions either underway or in process: new DHS cyber-security training for county clerks with an eye toward all 15,000 precinct election officials by this summer, improved vetting for poll workers, efforts by the State Board of Elections to transition Kentucky to a fully paper-backed voting system, and electronic poll books allowing voters to sign in digitally.

"We're going to more clearly have someone's signature. We're going to know how they checked in, the form of I.D., who checked them in at the polls," she explained. "It's going to lend itself to a better clarity of picture that should the law enforcement need it, they will have it."

The task force launched in 2012 and typically meets twice near elections, once before and once after, but the secretary started the partnership with DHS during the 2016 election, shortly before the agency reclassified the country's elections as "critical infrastructure."

"Make no mistake," Grimes said. "We have foreign adversaries that are seeking to try to get across the message that democracy is broken and that it does not work. We are here to say that it does and we are going to defend it every step of the way."

Kentucky holds primary elections on May 22. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. across the commonwealth.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.