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How safe is your Cass County vote? Officials help explain voting machine security

Officials say anyone who wanted to tamper with Cass County's voting system would have to invest vast amounts of resources to do so — and even then they'd likely be caught.

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Tom Seymour, District 13 Democratic Party Chair, left, observes Craig Steingaard, Cass County election coordinator, during logic and accuracy testing at the Cass County election warehouse on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022 to verify the tabulation machine is counting the ballots correctly.
Chris Flynn / The Forum
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FARGO — Any attempt to tamper with Cass County's voting machines would require a large expenditure of resources — and even then someone would likely fail to glean anything useful and probably would be caught.

That's according to Murray Nash, the county's election administrator, who along with other county officials provided a public demonstration on Monday, Oct. 24, of how the county's electronic voting system will work during the Nov. 8 general election.

The demonstration outlined a number of ways officials work to keep voting secure, including using voting machines that do not network with other digital devices and storing voting machines in locked cages that in turn are stored inside a locked warehouse that is under constant audio and video surveillance.

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Inside the Cass County election warehouse in south Fargo on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, where public testing of electronic voting systems was held.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

"North Dakota and Cass County have taken every effort to make sure our elections are secure and robustly protected," said Bob Henderson, director of information technology for Cass County.

Henderson stressed that there is no connectivity between individual voting machines and other equipment. The output of voting machines is hand delivered by trusted officials to an isolated machine that is only used for tabulation, he said.

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In turn, the results of tabulation are conveyed securely to the Secretary of State's Office, which tallies votes from all counties in the state, according to Henderson. There really is no way for anyone to access the county voting machines without forcing them open, Henderson asserted.

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Tabulation machines and inspector suitcases filled with supplies they'll need for the election inside the Cass County election warehouse on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

"You'd have to break into (voting machines) with a crowbar, pull data out of it and even if you did that all of the data is encrypted and impossible to read," Henderson said. The information collected by the voting machines, which is also documented on paper printouts, can only be read by trusted election partners, Henderson added.

On top of that, all paper ballots are kept in case a review of an election is required.

Elections have come under increasing scrutiny across the U.S., particularly when it comes to electronic voting machines, and Henderson said he had a few questions of his own when he started his job with the county.

"I like to know how things work," Henderson said, adding that state election officials and vendors they work with have answered every question he had to his satisfaction.

"They were able to show me how this worked and what level of security they've already taken," Henderson said.

Tom Seymour, a former North Dakota state senator and a Democratic party official for District 13 in West Fargo, showed up for the demonstration Monday morning, which was held at the warehouse the county uses to store its voting machines.

Seymour said he was impressed with the security of the system and he complimented the county workers on the job they do in conducting elections, including Craig Steingaard, the county's election coordinator, who did the hands-on demonstrating Monday.

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"I feel that the systems work. I think the software works and everything's good," said Seymour, who taught technology at Minot State University for 31 years.

Brandy Madrigga, the county's finance director, noted that Cass County does not use Dominion voting machines, which became the subject of controversy in some parts of the United States following the 2020 presidential election.

She said the machines used by Cass County come from a company called Elections Systems & Software. The machines were utilized in November 2020 and again this past summer during North Dakota's primary election, Madrigga said.

For more information on the upcoming election, visit: vote.nd.gov , or the elections page on the Cass County website here .

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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