By April L. Bogle
Janet Adkins, Supervisor of Elections (SOE) for Nassau County, addressed eight points of election security with her advisory council on Friday, April 21, at SOE offices.
“I look at my job as protecting the integrity of elections. We are more focused on the process than the outcome,” she told the group of more than 20 members representing both political parties. “We make sure the process is pristine.”
Adkins’ presentation was designed to counter election fraud claims made by two nationally known election deniers April 15 at the First Baptist Church Fernandina Beach. Two local conservative political organizations, We the People and Citizens Defending Freedom-Nassau, promoted the election denier event. See related story.
Adkins addressed the following eight processes, which the election deniers implied were fraudulent or enabled fraud to occur:
1-Pauses on election day ballot counting. Although many precincts throughout the nation had to stop counting ballots on election day in 2020 and complete the process in subsequent days, this does not happen in Nassau County. The state of Florida allows mail-in ballots to be counted in advance of election day, which gives Adkins’ team a head start and the ability to complete the ballot counting process in one day. In other states, mail-in ballots must be counted on election day and workers are unable to process them all in a single day.
2-Voter identity systems (EViD) at precincts are connected to the internet. Yes, they are because election workers need to be able to determine, immediately at voter check-in, if that voter has voted elsewhere or already submitted a mail-in ballot. Having the EViD system connected to the voter registration system allows for verification and prevents fraud.
3-EViD data is being accessed/received throughout [election] day. Yes, it is because Florida state law gives political parties, political committees with an issue on the ballot and candidates on the ballot the right to access data to see where constituents are voting, which lets them know where they need to go “get out the vote.”
4-External control of EViD during voting. In Nassau County, if an EViD machine malfunctions, a member of Adkins’ team is dispatched to replace it with a new one. No vendors, repair people or other “external” people are given access to the machines.
5-20% of votes are showing up in 12 minutes. This happens because mail-in ballot results are required by Florida law to be released in batches starting 30 minutes after polls close on election day.
6-Hackers can remotely access voting equipment. This is next to impossible in Nassau County. First, the county audits 100% of ballots received, even though Florida requires only a 20% audit. This means every ballot is run through a separate set of scanners (made by different a manufacturer than the tabulation machines). Those scanners are not online, and the scanning is done in a separate audit room that is accessible only by SOE audit staff. Second, SOE staff do not have keys to both the audit room and the tabulation room, and staff is not cross-trained on how to use both systems. Third, the SOE office has seven levels of physical security:
– Self-contained IT infrastructure — not part of other constitutional office IT infrastructures.
– Controlled personnel access.
– Physical keys required.
– Badges required.
– PIN access required.
– Security alarms.
– 24-hour video surveillance.
7-SQL server database on tabulation equipment. Nassau County does not have a SQL database or SQL software on any of its tabulation equipment, so SQL cannot be used to manipulate election data.
8-Generic system login that anyone can figure out. Example: Username: Admin, Password: 123456. In Nassau County, system logins require a 14-digit password that is frequently changed, as well as multi-factor authentication. This means that in addition to entering the correct password, people must also input an access code that has been sent to another of their devices.
Adkins also showed the advisory council where all the action takes place on election day to raise awareness of how ballot counting and election certification are accomplished. In the canvassing room, the Nassau County Canvassing Board reviews vote totals, examines ballots where markings are not typical and applies Florida’s criteria for determining if such votes should get counted, and certifies elections as official. As required by Florida statute, the board is composed of one county judge, one county commissioner not on the ballot and the county’s supervisor of elections. Representatives from both political parties are permitted in the room to observe but do not serve on the board.
In the tabulation room, votes are counted. In the adjacent audit room, 100% of ballots are recounted (on different equipment as noted). There’s also an observation room where members of the public can watch the vote counting process and hear what is being said in the canvassing room.
Advisory council members seemed satisfied with Adkins’ explanations, including We the People founder Deb Boelkes, who invited the election deniers to Fernandina Beach. “People don’t know the extent you go to. This was an awesome meeting,” she said.