“Minor efforts” to hack into Massachusetts’s elections and voter resource website were made as part of an uptick in attempts this year, although none were successful ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections, Secretary of State Bill Galvin said Monday.
Discussing the attempts during a pre-election press conference at the State House, Galvin characterized the tries as “very minor” and affirmed that they’re not out of the ordinary.
“When I say minor, they don’t appear professional or overseas or anything coordinated,” he said. “But periodically, we have efforts that we pick up. This is not unusual. … Efforts are ongoing, always. We take precautions, and we’ve always done that, continue to do that.”
Galvin, who touted the state’s paper-ballot system as a protective measure for its election processes against online hacking, told reporters officials are unaware of what specifically hackers hoped to access, but said simply that the efforts were detected.
He repeatedly confirmed none of the attempts were successful. Officials have used federal funding and cooperation to support the voter system, which is constantly monitored, Galvin said.
Debra O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Galvin’s office, later said the attempts were targeted against the website that provides the state’s online voter resources, such as absentee ballot tracking and local polling place finding tools. The state’s voter database, however, is stored within a private computer network that only officials can access, she said.
“We’re not on the internet so they have to come in indirectly because we’re not on the internet,” Galvin said. “That’s kind of important to point out. Again, we’re certainly not welcoming any challenges in this area. We don’t want to encourage people to do things.”
Galvin said the state’s protective measures are meant primarily to ensure that citizens’ personal information remains safe.
The security of the state’s election process and system has been a talking point for Galvin’s own political opponents this year, including for Democratic primary challenger Josh Zakim and Republican Anthony Amore, who is seeking to unseat the longtime Democratic incumbent in Tuesday’s state election.
Amore has criticized Galvin for not taking steps to modernize the system and has also put forth his own 10-point plan to make things more secure, if elected.
“Voters should know that Secretary Galvin had every opportunity since 2016 to safeguard our elections against hacking but instead chose to let the midterms pass by without any improvements to our election security systems,” Amore said in a statement Monday. “I encourage all those voting in person to bring an ID just in case it’s needed, and volunteer to poll watch so voters receive the safe and secure election they deserve.”
Galvin maintained Monday the fact the system has not been hacked is proof that the current process works well. He added that his office is constantly updating it and highlighted the approximately $7.9 million the state received this year from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission by his office’s request.
“I think (Amore’s) desperately trying to create the impression this is an insecure system, which is not the case,” Galvin told Boston.com.
Green-Rainbow candidate Juan Sanchez Jr. is also running for the secretary of state seat.
Heading into Tuesday’s election, Galvin estimated Massachusetts will see about 2.4 million ballots cast by the time polls close — making up more than half of the state’s 4,574,967 registered voters.
The figure is just north of the number of voters who turned up in similar state elections, according to Galvin, who said elections in 2010 and 2014 saw approximately 2.3 million and 2.2 million voters take part, respectively.
Galvin believes the fervor around the national midterm elections is pushing people to the polls more so than state contests, which are less intense, he said.
“The other overriding factor in all the conversations we’ve had, all the inquiries we’ve had, has been the awareness we’ve had on the part of the voters of this being a national election,” he said. “That is truly driving the turnout, I think. It’s not necessarily the intensity of some of the statewide contests because, candidly, some of them aren’t very intense, or the absence of legislative contests because there are many areas that have no legislative contests.”
Officials estimate about 585,000 people took part in the state’s early voting process — less than the 1 million-plus voters who participated during the 2016 presidential election when the option was first offered, according to Galvin.
But, election officials are overall encouraged by the numbers, with over 700,000 voters expected to have participated in pre-election day voting in some form, Galvin said.
Polls across the state are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“We hope that the weather will cooperative tomorrow and we hope that our participation at the polls will occur evenly throughout the day,” Galvin said.