The County of Santa Clara

Board Referral
Approved as Amended
Sep 10, 2019 9:30 AM

Approve referral to Administration and County Counsel to provide regular progress reports to the Board regarding efforts to improve the security and integrity of elections in Santa Clara County. (Simitian)


Department:Supervisor S. Joseph Simitian (Supervisorial District Five)Sponsors:
Category:Board Referral


  1. Board Referral Printout



Foreign governments attacked our elections in 2016. According to assessments by the United States intelligence community (including the CIA, FBI, and others), malicious actors sponsored by the Russian government obtained access to the systems of multiple state and local election boards. They breached the election systems in Arizona and stole the information of 76,000 voters in Illinois, and it is likely that they engaged in other behavior that we will never know about.

They tried again (albeit on a smaller scale) in 2018, and it is the widely-accepted opinion of the intelligence community and experts across the political spectrum that our elections will be attacked again in 2020. And we are now six short months away from the California primary elections in March of 2020.

Counties are the first line of defense in protecting American democracy against these sorts of attacks. We buy the voting machines, implement security measures, count the votes, and ensure those counts are accurate.

Here in Santa Clara County, employees across many departments are hard at work on these problems every day. To pick just a few examples, our Registrar of Voters ensures that the voting machines that we procure and the protocols that we implement comply with the California’s safety, security, and integrity requirements. Our information security team keeps our systems safe from hackers, and, alongside our County Counsel and privacy teams, make sure that we protect the precious information with which our constituents trust us.

If done right, election day goes off smoothly and the public goes about its business, never giving this difficult task a second thought.

In March of this year, my office put together a conference entitled Protecting the Front Line: County Election Security in the 21st Century. We were joined by experts on both the policy and technology of securing elections, and Secretary of State Alex Padilla served as our keynote speaker.

One of the most important lessons that we learned from this event is that as much as we need good laws, policies, and technology to secure our elections, we also need to spend at least as much effort safeguarding the public trust in the process. American democracy is built upon the idea that our elections fairly and accurately reflect the will of our voters. It is our job to communicate with the public and help them to understand what we are doing to make that idea a reality.

Therefore, I request that Administration and County Counsel, in collaboration with our Registrar of Voters, Privacy Office, Information Security Office, Technology Services and Solutions, and any other relevant departments, provide regular monthly updates to the Board on the status of our election security and integrity efforts beginning at the October 22 Board meeting. These reports involve sensitive subjects, and we should certainly not compromise our security efforts through excessive disclosure. However, there is quite a lot of information that could be of use to the public that is not confidential.

Additionally, I request that the relevant departments work together to draft a document designed to be shared with other counties detailing the best practices and lessons learned on these issues. This document should be presented to the Board as part of the general report on October 22.

Our elections belong to the people of Santa Clara County. We are obligated to tell them how we are protecting this most important American tradition.

Meeting History

Sep 10, 2019 9:30 AM Video Board of Supervisors Regular Meeting

At the request of President Simitian, the Board approved the referral to Administration and County Counsel to provide monthly progress reports to the Board regarding efforts to improve the security and integrity of elections in Santa Clara County.

MOVER:S. Joseph Simitian, President
SECONDER:Dave Cortese, Supervisor
AYES:Mike Wasserman, Cindy Chavez, Dave Cortese, Susan Ellenberg, S. Joseph Simitian


Sep 10, 2019 9:30 AMBoard of SupervisorsRegular Meeting


10:51 AMWhich ask the voting panel be did displayed on the screen and recommendation. Supervisor core ta sy and a staff recommendation on item number ten and ask all file item number 12 has been held. And that takes us hen to item number 13. Referrals colleagues this is referral from me and my office and it is simply to provide direction to the administration regular progress reports to the board regarding efforts to integrity of the elections here in santa clara county. Some of you will recall that fryer the 2018 elections, fgoc supervisor chavez and I spend month after month working with our staff to up our game in terms of election security matters the reasons for that are repeated. In earlier as well the issue of election security without sharing touch, and that is a challenge, in these conversations, how to make sure that we are not sharing folks to compromise the system without sharing to much, file like we made substantial rog learned ann thing, our work is and that the thread never abates. Good work throughout the more secure place and some of you know, some of you were able conference that May office and I sponsored about 120 folks around the stat and indeed some from election security matters and trying to identify best counties. Motion.