Arthur Babitz has filed for election to the Hood River County Board of Commissioners, on the May 19 Primary Ballot.

Babitz, a self-employed engineer and member of the Hood River City Planning Commission, served three terms as Hood River Mayor from 2008-14 and was a member of City Council before that. Babitz filed for Position 2 on the County Board, currently held by Rich McBride, who has not yet filed for the election. Paul Henke of Hood River has also filed for Position 2. Incumbents Les Perkins, Position 1, and chairman Mike Oates, have also filed.

Depending on the number of candidates in each local race, the Primary either decides the winner or narrows the field to two candidates to run in the November General Election.

The deadline to sign on for the primary is March 10 at Hood River County Elections Office. The last day to register to vote is April 28.

“This May, voters will decide if they support a county operating levy. No matter what they decide, the county will not continue spending reserves. The well has run dry,” Babitz said. “But there’s more to stable finances than not living on reserves. Over the next few years, we will not only have to make wise budget choices, we will need to change the way the county government thinks and acts.

“The Commission’s handling of this budget crisis has damaged its credibility. It will take clear policy statements and persistent efforts over several years to restore public trust and make sure the county doesn’t slide back into unsustainable practices when all eyes aren’t focused on it.”

Ballot security

Local elections officials said they are working increasingly with federal Homeland Security officials to improve voting systems’ resistance to tampering and other security concerns. The county’s new elections supervisor, Darlene Johnson, attended an election security symposium in Portland earlier this month. The Secretary of State partnered with the U.S. Attorney and FBI on the session, with more than 160 attendees including local election officials, members of the legislature, candidates and federal and state partners. 

“Over the past year, we increased our security efforts with respect to elections,” Secretary of State Bev Clarno said in a statement last week. Steps taken this year for better election security include upgraded network firewalls, remote password controls, and upgraded anti-malware. Authorities are also testing to ensure physical security of election infrastructure (buildings, computers and tabulation systems) and testing against network penetration, social engineering (manipulation of advertising, social media and other misinformation and disinformation to influence attitudes and behavior) and other concerns.

“Election security is a big discussion topic for the 2020 elections,” said Steve Trout, director of the Oregon Elections Division of the Secretary of State. “The 2016 election saw the use of misinformation used in connection with elections like never before. We know that no votes were changed in 2016 and we also know that one state voter registration database was compromised.

“While  we make efforts to educate Oregonians so they are not fooled by misinformation, we are also continually improving the physical and cyber security of our election systems,” Trout said.

Clarno said her office also works closely with federal partners at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). “In partnership we developed a cybersecurity tabletop exercise focused on Oregon’s vote by mail process for Oregon’s 36 counties at their annual summer conference. Election and information technology representatives from the counties participated in the exercise and then shared best practices. Additionally, our Protective Security Advisor-Oregon District from CISA and DHS is conducting security assessments at each of Oregon’s 36 county election offices.”

She said her office also created an Oregon TIGER Team (Threat Information Gathering and Election Resources). The TIGER team is made up of representatives from the Oregon Elections Division, Oregon Office of Emergency Management, Enterprise Security Office in the Oregon CIO’s Office, Oregon National Guard, FBI, and at the federal level DHS and CISA.

“We meet regularly to share information, coordinate activities, and plan and prepare for threats,” Clarno said. “All 36 Oregon counties are members of the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC).

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