CLEVELAND — Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose will tell you that talk of efforts to interfere in our elections isn't talk, it's a reality.
"There are foreign adversaries who want to undermine the credibility of this thing that is really fundamental to our way of life as Americans and that is the ability to elect our leaders," LaRose told News 5 from Israel, where he was asked to speak this week at a cyber-security conference in Tel Aviv.
"They've heard about some of the work we're doing in Ohio where in many ways we're leading the nation with a very aggressive cyber-security posture that we've put in place to protect the integrity of our elections," he said. "While I've been here I've had the chance to meet with my counterparts from Israel's electoral commission as well, so there's a great exchange of information between the Israeli experts that work to keep their election's safe and secure and myself."
The state's county boards of election this week have been busy completing LaRose's task of making sure they are all individually protected against attack — a 34-point checklist that they have until January 31 to complete.
"We said in a perfect world what would our county boards of election have to do at each of our 88 counties to make sure that we're ready for the very real credible cyber threat that exists. The list that we came up with I said that's our homework, that's our assignment, these are the things that we have to do."
Like any homework, there's a due date, which is Friday, January 31, which is the start of early voting for those looking to vote absentee from overseas.
"I've made it clear to the counties that my expectation is that they will meet this deadline and there will be consequences if they don't," said LaRose. "It's not a punitive thing, it's simply a matter of these are the steps that we have to take to safeguard our elections."
"For those that aren't in compliance by the end of this week, we'll give them a little bit of remedial help and we're going to give them that soon because remember the real test comes in March when we have a primary and in November when we have a general election and we know the world will be watching," LaRose said.
Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Director Anthony Perlatti said it's a deadline they will meet.
"We have been working on a combination of physical security of our locations, cyber-security of our systems and training of our staff," Perlatti said. "We had been doing a lot of physical security items prior to the directive coming out. The directive has been a positive thing in taking our security to the next level."