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Buffalo, NY | Local News, Weather, Traffic, Sports | WGRZ.com

WNY officials ensure a secure election

County elections commissioners in Western New York say protocols are in place to make sure your vote will count on Tuesday.

MAYVILLE, N.Y. - Elections commissioners in Chautauqua and Erie County say worries about Russian hacking and other election security issues are warranted, but voters in Western New York should rest assured their votes will count.

"The way we have the system set up here is nothing is connected to the internet with regards to the voter registration system or to the voting tabulation itself," said Ralph Mohr, the Republican Erie County Elections Commissioner.

His counterpart in Chautauqua County, Brian Abram, said the same.

"We're very fortunate," Abram said from his office in Mayville. "We have a system that's a standalone unit. It doesn't share any information with the internet."

Here's how the system works in all of our counties. You vote by filling out a paper ballot. You then insert that into one of those standalone machines, which scans and counts your selections. After polls close on Tuesday, workers at all the precincts will read the tabulations from the machines and call in those results to their county Board of Elections.

Workers will then remove the thumb drives from those machines and physically drive those to the county board offices. Those drives contain all of the data from the precinct election machines, including scans of each and every ballot. The drives are inserted into computers -- also standalone and not connected to the internet -- to come up with the countywide results.

"So we have a very secure network," Mohr said.

That's not the case everywhere. Verified Voting, a nonpartisan group that advocates for election security measures, says 36 states still use insecure voting equipment.

In 5 states, every single voter uses a machine that doesn't keep any paper record of their electronic ballot. That's also true in some precincts in several other states.

Mohr and Abram explained how the system works in New York State.

"At the very end of the day, we have their paper ballot," Abram explained. "We have the source document."

Here, the paper ballots are stored in the voting machines, to be used for audits, any possible recounts or other extenuating circumstances.

After the 2016 election interference, the federal government approved $380 million to send to the states to help with security. New York got about $19.5 million, which was spent on trainings, risk/vulnerability assessments, computer software to detect intrusions, around-the-clock monitoring and other measures.

"We've had people from the state here to look over our security systems," Mohr said, noting they visited within the past couple of weeks.

Experts say New York State is well above average in terms of protection from outside interference, hacking and other election security risks.

"Here ... I can honestly say that their vote will count," Abram said.

But with control of Congress on the line, Western New Yorkers will also want to be sure votes are properly counted nationwide.

NBC News is launching a 'Vote Watch' team to monitor the election from coast to coast.

"Are the lines too long? Are machines breaking down? Are there protests outside polling places? Whatever it may be, we'll be there bringing it to you live all night," said NBC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Cynthia McFadden.

Stay with 2 On Your Side and NBC News for updates leading up to the vote. Live coverage on both the national and local races will go from 8 p.m. through 11:35 p.m. on Tuesday.