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Ohio secretary of state visits Medina County Board of Elections

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    Frank LaRose, Ohio Secretary of State, checks out one of the new voting machines at the Medina County Board of Elections Thursday.

    BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE

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MEDINA TWP. — In a visit to Medina County just six months into his first term, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said it was never the intention of his office to foot the entire bill for new voting machines.

It is a hot-button topic in the area as the machines cost more than county official anticipated.

LaRose’s office provided $1.8 million to Medina County to help purchase voting machines. However, the county had to come up with about $1 million to cover the balance.

LaRose said several counties purchased much cheaper machines than Medina County’s.

“I tried to get as much support as I could get,” he said.

LaRose said he was able to raise $114.5 million from state legislators for voting machines.

“That’s a big deal,” he said.

“(Medina County) is spending more. That’s their choice.”

The board of elections is expected to get the balance of its 750 ES&S machines Monday.

While at the Medina County Board of Elections on Thursday, the 40-year-old touched on his main priorities in his new role, with the big push being cybersecurity. The Republican was sworn in Jan. 12 for a four-year term.

“We take cybersecurity very seriously,” he said. “We are one of the leaders in the country.”

LaRose borrowed a screwdriver from one of the workers in the Board of Elections and held it up in the air. He said someone would have to be in a room by themselves with the screwdriver to physically hack into the tabulation computers.

The secretary of state said the tabulation computers are never connected to the internet. Once they compile the election results, they are downloaded onto a thumb drive and compiled. The thumb drives are never used again.

A lot goes into keeping the system secure, LaRose said.

He’s hoping Senate Bill 52 will pass in the House of Representatives for cybersecurity.

One portion of the bill is the Ohio Cyber Reserve, a “geek squad” of computer experts who would be called on in an internet security crisis.

“This is something we have to be ready for,” LaRose said.

He also wants all the board of elections to eventually purchase a backup generator in the event of a power outage.

Workers said there are 120 precincts in the county at 55 polling locations.

Statewide, there are 4,000 voting locations and almost 10,000 poll workers.

“In Washington, they can’t agree it’s Thursday,” LaRose said. “In 99 percent of the board of elections, they are doing a great job in this bipartisan enterprise.”

He said he might have “secretary of state” stenciled on his door, but “running the election is done by all of you.”

LaRose said he thought the Board of Elections building is a “wonderful facility.” It originally was in the administration building and later in the health department. It’s been at its current location for five years.

“My goal is to visit all 88 board of elections (around the state),” LaRose said.

The Copley Township native now lives in Hudson with his wife, Lauren, and three daughters. He previously had served two terms in the Ohio Senate.

Contact Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.


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