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Ashcroft holds virtual town hall on election security, voter registration

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Through Facebook Live, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft answered questions directly from Missourians on election security and voter registration.

“Election security has been a concern since elections started,” Missouri’s top election official told those who tuned in. 

Ashcroft, a Republican, went on to tout the different steps his office has taken to strengthen election security. Beyond partnering with a multitude of federal groups and having the system tested, the state hosted a National Election Security Summit in St. Louis in 2018.

One of the office’s biggest accomplishments, according to Ashcroft, is its partnership with local election authorities. 

“[We] collaborate with local election authorities to review their policies, procedures, hardware, network, and give them advice on how they can strengthen those systems on an individual basis,” Ashcroft told The Missouri Times. “[It is] not, ‘Here is a statewide blast to every county,’ but an individualized examination of what is happening at the local election authority and individualize suggestions.”

He added the Secretary of State’s Office is working on preparing grants — from federal funding Missouri received — to allow counties, based on specific cybersecurity needs, to shore up or strengthen what would be beneficial for the specific election authority.

The Facebook Live also touched on voter registration.

“If people aren’t registered to vote, it is easy and they need to get registered. If they are registered, they will be able to vote, and their vote will count,” Ashcroft said.

Monday’s Facebook Live was the second time Missouri’s top election official held the internet forum for a question and answer session; the first topic was the abortion referendum.

The reception of the Facebook Live town halls depends on the question and the topic, according to Ashcroft. 

“I think it is really important to have that sort of avenue so I can speak to what [citizens] are interested in,” Ashcroft said. “It is really about customer service. We only have one secretary of state; we don’t have one for each party, we don’t have one for different regions of the state.”

Facebook Live is simply another avenue for the state to communicate with people and for the people to communicate with the state, according to Ashcroft. 

He went on to add his office is trying to figure out a better way to communicate with people— since he is “not really a press conference type of person.” 

“We are really hoping the Facebook Live and me getting out to every county in the state every year, really helps people get the opportunity if they have a question, if they have a concern, an answer on point to what they are interested in,” Ashcroft said. 

The Secretary of State’s Office intends to hold more Facebook Live conversations. Ashcroft noted they have “penciled in some topics” but are still deciding ahead of the next internet forum, which could be in a month or two.