SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — While the cliche goes "all politics is local," the effort to protect the votes behind those politics is much more complex.
Hackers got inside the Illinois State Board of Elections in 2016 and since then, elected officials at all levels of government are taking extra precautions.
"Working and training as a team, not just throughout the state government, but also with our partners at the federal and local level is the best approach to protecting our elections," said Gov. JB Pritzker.
So how secure is the vote?
The answer to that is both a little reassuring — and concerning.
Matt Dietrich and the State Board of Elections know cyber attacks all too well. Russian hackers found their way into the state's system in July of 2016, while the system was down for maintenance.
"Our voter registration database was hacked by an intruder who tried to change some voter information," Dietrich said. "They were unsuccessful. They had hacked into a read-only area of our database."
But those hackers still found the information of 76,000 voters. Dietrich says those voters were individually notified and so far, none have complained of any identity-related issues. The state also used $13 million from the federal government to train local election authorities on cyber security.
"We don't want any of these local election authorities to be the weak link that gets picked on in a cyber attack coming into the 2020 election season," Dietrich said.
Miguel Martinez knows a thing or two about computers. White he doesn't work on voting machines directly, he and his coworkers at BLH Computers in Springfield see the aftermath of hackers and malware each day.
"They're usually old operating systems," he said.
But he's not talking about someone's desktop computer at home — he's referencing the software many digital voting machines utilize each election. That concern has now made its way to Washington, DC.
"We're dealing with equipment that is now getting up in years," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). "Technology, to be effective and protected, has to be more current. It's a very expensive undertaking."
While pricey, many central Illinois counties are updating their voting machines for that very reason. Christian County Clerk Mike Gianasi spoke to Congress about his decision to change out machines.
"The original machines Christian County had been using were purchased in 2004," he said. "Those machines, although doing well up through and including the previous election, have seen better days."
Christian County just agreed lease new voting machines. Vermilion County has new machines too.
Illinois voting machines do not connect to the internet, forcing would-be hackers to use more primitive methods.
"Someone would have to physically have access to the machine to change any votes and do anything to the election," Martinez said.
But if proper protocols are followed, those bad actors wouldn't even have the chance. Physical access should be just as limited as digital.
"The election equipment that I have custody of is stored away in the courthouse in a locked room," Gianasi said.
"There's a very strict protocol for how those machines are stored and how they get to the polling places so that no one can get inside them and tamper with them," Dietrich said.
Education and security — making sure everyone's vote counts in 2020.