Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Opinion

Guest column: Why you can trust the election process in Hillsborough County

I used to hear people say they didnít vote because their vote doesnít count, that a single vote doesnít really matter. But after years in the national spotlight as the swing county in a swing state, most Hillsborough County voters do believe their vote has value. Now they ask whether their vote will be counted.

So let me explain the steps involved with counting your votes.

The first step is making sure that every eligible, registered voter can get a ballot if they choose to vote. We have a statewide voter registration system to keep track. There are electronic and paper backups and redundancies, and processes in place to audit changes to the voter registration database. If thereís a question about eligibility at the polling place, voters can vote a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are just like regular ballots, but they go in an envelope so we can research the voterís eligibility.

Bottom line: If bad actors were to make changes to our voter registration database, it would slow things down, but with backups and provisional ballots, your vote will still be counted.

The next step is the actual voting. In Florida, you bubble in your choices on a paper ballot, and if you vote during early voting or on Election Day, you feed the ballot into an optical scanner. If you vote by mail, your ballot is scanned in our secure tabulation room.

All types of scanners are publicly tested before every election, to ensure they are reading every position on the ballot and counting accurately. They are sealed and placed in the open in each polling place, and we print out results tapes from every machine after voting has ended.

After every election, we conduct a manual audit and publicly hand-count the results of a randomly selected race and precincts.

Bottom line: If there were a question about the scanned results, we could go right back to the original paper ballots and count the votes again.

Finally, thereís tabulation. We use a stand-alone, air-gapped system that is not connected to the internet or any other local network to tabulate all the results from vote by mail, early voting and Election Day ballots. We report the results to the Florida Division of Elections, and we also report the results on our website, using a separate system.

Bottom line: Tampering with tabulated results would be obvious, because there would be discrepancies among the results tapes from the machines, the results posted on our website and the results posted by the state.

Iím working with other elections officials, legislators, law enforcement, and cybersecurity experts ó including the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI ó to ensure we have the strongest possible protections in place.

Our democracy is envied around the world, so itís not surprising to find our elections in the crosshairs of bad actors. While they may have promoted fear among our electorate, they have not been successful in "hacking" the vote.

Exercise your right to vote. Because every vote counts. And every vote will be counted.

Craig Latimer is Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and a retired major with the Hillsborough County Sheriffís Office.

Comments
Editorial: Trump should demand Saudis account for journalist

Editorial: Trump should demand Saudis account for journalist

Twenty-seven journalists have been murdered so far this year just for doing their jobs, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. That number doesn’t even include Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident journalist who hasn’t been ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Restart selection process for Florida Supreme Court justices

Editorial: Restart selection process for Florida Supreme Court justices

The Florida Supreme Court reached the right conclusion by ruling that the next governor has the authority to appoint three new justices to the court rather than departing Gov. Rick Scott. That is practical and reasonable, and it reflects the will of ...
Published: 10/16/18
Updated: 10/17/18
Editorial: Bilirakis mimics Trump, colleagues in misleading voters

Editorial: Bilirakis mimics Trump, colleagues in misleading voters

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis wants voters to believe he is different than his Republican colleagues in Congress and President Donald Trump. The Palm Harbor Republican says he pays more attention to local issues than to the president, claims he doesnȁ...
Published: 10/15/18
Updated: 10/16/18
Editorial: Answering questions about Hillsborough school tax

Editorial: Answering questions about Hillsborough school tax

The Hillsborough County school tax on the Nov. 6 ballot is a smart, necessary investment in the nation's eighth-largest school system. The 10-year, half-penny sales tax would create stronger, safer schools and a healthier learning environment for mor...
Published: 10/12/18
Updated: 10/16/18
Editorial: Tampa water project benefits entire region

Editorial: Tampa water project benefits entire region

A proposal that goes to the three-county utility Tampa Bay Water on Monday could benefit residents, the economy and the environment across the region. The utility's governing board will consider a proposal by the city of Tampa to redirect highly trea...
Published: 10/12/18
Updated: 10/15/18
Editorial: Rays’ purchase of Rowdies good for St. Petersburg

Editorial: Rays’ purchase of Rowdies good for St. Petersburg

The Tampa Bay Rays’ purchase of the Rowdies soccer team adds some stability to the region’s roster of professional sports franchises. It also guarantees that the Rowdies, who have amassed an enthusiastic fan base in a short time, will k...
Published: 10/12/18
Editorial: Remember Mexico Beach when next evacuation order comes

Editorial: Remember Mexico Beach when next evacuation order comes

When the sun rose Wednesday, Mexico Beach was a sleepy town of 1,200 people on Florida's northern Gulf coast. By sundown, it was gone. The pictures show the heartbreaking devastation left by Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle. Entire neighbor...
Published: 10/12/18
Shortsighted opposition to TECO

Shortsighted opposition to TECO

The destruction from Hurricane Michael is only the latest reminder of Florida's growing vulnerability to extreme weather, rising sea levels and other impacts of a warming climate. But the Sierra Club's opposition to Tampa Electric Co.'s plans to retr...
Published: 10/12/18
Times recommends: Chronister for Hillsborough sheriff

Times recommends: Chronister for Hillsborough sheriff

Florida sheriffs have long hand-plucked their successors from within the ranks. While he is a product of this tradition, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is uniquely qualified to be elected on his own merits.Then-Sheriff David Gee surprise...
Published: 10/11/18
Updated: 10/12/18
Times recommends: Yes on Florida Supreme Court retention

Times recommends: Yes on Florida Supreme Court retention

One justice on the Florida Supreme Court faces a merit retention vote in November, essentially an up-or-down vote of confidence allowing him to remain on the bench. Merit retention votes occur at least one year after the justice’s initial appo...
Published: 10/11/18