Originally published Nov. 7 on KTVB.COM.
Every year, more resources go toward making sure Idaho’s elections are safe and secure.
“There’s just been a significant investment nationwide put into the elections’ ecosystem over the last six years,” said Chad Houck, Idaho’s chief deputy secretary of state.
That includes the Elections Operations Center, which officially launched in 2020. The EOC convenes during election day to ensure everybody Idahoan can make it to a polling place, Houck said.
It takes a big team to ensure safe elections. Houck said officials from various agencies like the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are all involved with the EOC.
Houck said while many of the officials work together down in the basement of the Idaho Capitol, some work remotely elsewhere like Washington, D.C., to monitor potential threats.
“Let's say the power grid drops,” Houck said. “We want to be able to see, how big does that power blackout cover? So that if we have to move a polling location, or if a county has to move a polling location, we can help advise how far that move has to go.”
Houck said officials watch for anything that could potentially limit a county’s ability to share important election information with people. Some additional examples include internet connection issues, major traffic or weather incidents that shut down a highway or mountain pass.
Just a few years ago, the EOC dealt with a potential gas leak.
“We were able … to immediately insert our emergency managers into the conversation (and) let them know that there was a polling location only about a half a mile away,” he said. “And until it was confirmed that it was actually a danger to the community, keep that polling location and the traffic patterns around it open.”
Cybersecurity is also top of mind. During a recent election, Houck said they ended up sending out press releases discounting robocalls going around telling people it was not safe to vote at a polling place.
Houck said he does not think most Idahoans realize just how much effort is put into making sure Idaho’s elections are safe, secure and transparent.
Essentially, the EOC is a safeguard. While Houck said officials hope nothing happens tomorrow, preparedness is key.
“You wouldn't anticipate doing a major athletic event without some type of emergency operation center,” he said. “So, we're taking those same types of proactive strategic approaches with elections.”
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