SJC supervisor of elections addresses safety, security of voting process at Rotary meeting

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Amid national concerns over the safety and security of elections in the United States, St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes said her office is taking every possible measure to protect the local voting process.

“I have 100 percent confidence in our voting system,” Oakes told the Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach Thursday, July 19 at Marsh Landing Country Club. “The highest priority for me as an election administrator is the safety and security of our elections.”

Oakes first explained that the county’s voting system is not on the Internet and is instead hosted on a closed server in her office that programs and tabulates the election. Separately, she said her office uses a communications server for precincts when they close on election night to send the results via a private network. The election administrator also noted that significant testing takes place at her office to ensure voting equipment counts accurately before it is used in an election.

Among other safety and security measures, Oakes said an audit is completed following elections to ensure every vote has been counted and accounted for. Also after elections, she said her office draws random races and counts the votes to verify that total against the tabulated total.

In addition, Oakes noted the supervisor of elections office keeps ballots for two years following elections should any issues arise. The election administrator also said Florida’s paper ballot process is one of the safest systems in the country.

Moving forward, Oakes said her office recently received funds from the state to continue to harden its systems, including upgrading systems and adding a layer of security. She noted that her office now has a 24/7 monitoring system that tracks all traffic.

“Is our system perfect?” Oakes asked. “No. But I’ll tell you, over 30 years, it’s better than it’s ever been.”

The St. Johns County supervisor of elections additionally discussed changing trends in elections. She said in the 2016 general election, 72 percent of voters in St. Johns County cast their ballots prior to the election. More specifically, Oakes noted that 52 percent voted early, and 20 percent voted by mail. In addition, she mentioned that voters can now register to vote online, which is a new feature in Florida as of October 2017.

Oakes reminded the Rotarians that the primary election is taking place Aug. 28. The last day to register to vote or make a party change is July 30, and early voting starts Aug. 18.

In a separate communication to media, Oakes also said it’s not too late to request a mail ballot for the primary. To do so, residents can visit the elections office website at www.votesjc.com and use the online form to request the ballot. Or residents can call the elections office at (904) 823-2238. The deadline for requesting the ballot for the primary is Aug. 22 at 5 p.m.

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