Our backup elections website is ready
By: Mary Hall

Monday, April 27, 2020

If the Thurston County Auditor's website is knocked offline at any point during an election, a backup elections website is ready.

This ensures that up-to-date election information is available, even if our primary website fails or is compromised.

The historic snowstorm in 2019 gave us a brief opportunity to show how this backup website would work. When our servers were knocked out in the massive snowstorm during a special election, we briefly used the backup website. The backup website is hosted on a remote secure server that is separate from the county's primary webserver.

Local governments, especially elections offices, are facing an increased threat from cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns. Recently in Oregon, Tillamook County's website was taken offline for more than a week by a ransomware attack.

So, we're letting you know what this website will look like in case we are under cyberattack. It will be vital that voters and media know where they can get trusted information.

If our main website goes down, we will be able to get back online in a limited fashion at thurstonvotes.org and thurstonauditor.org. Old bookmarks to the auditor's website (hosted at thurstoncountywa.gov) would not be useable until after county web services are back online.

Here is an example of what our backup website would look like:

 Thurston County Auditor's Office Failover.jpg

Visitors will find basic information needed for an election, like election statistics, voter pamphlets, and a sample ballot. If our site went down on election night you would find results on this page as well.

To respond to the increased risk of cyberattacks, we launched the Thurston County Cybersecurity Forum in 2018.  The forum brings together resources and recommends strategies. The task force includes key department directors, staff from my office, our IT department, the assistant county manager, and other elected officials.

Even if our website is shut down, our elections are safe from hacking. Our tabulation systems are not connected to the internet and we take strong physical measures to protect the integrity of our system. Most importantly, elections in Washington State are conducted using paper ballots. That gives us a hardcopy record of everyone's votes that cannot be manipulated.

But it is vital that my office always be able to communicate accurate elections information, even if a cyberattack takes us offline. Rest assured, we are taking every precaution and creating a back-up system to ensure you can always find the information you're looking for.