Election security: Illinois making sure primary votes aren't tampered with

In tonight's special report - election security.

The Illinois State Board of elections says it was breached in 2016.

With the primaries less than a week away, we wanted to know how officials are working to make sure your vote isn't tampered with.

Noah Praetz is the director of elections for Cook County. He says hacking attempts in 2016 helped shape a forward-thinking discussion about safe elections.

“Getting this question right is absolutely fundamental. The good thing is, broadly, we're getting it right,” Praetz said.

Praetz says the focus in cook county is to defend, detect and recover.

And while you might not see any changes when you go to vote, there's a lot going on behind the scenes.

“Defense is a tricky thing. It's quite difficult. Ask Uber, Equifax, HBO, Sony, Target,” Praetz said.

That means paper-backups, even on touch-screen ballot machines.

“There's a spooling roll of paper audit trail, and that roll is reviewed before a voter casts a ballot. So we've got a paper record for every single vote,” Praetz said.

He says detection is easier when officials invest in the latest technologies. But the idea of a perfect security system may not be possible as technology evolves.

“The cybersecurity problem is a race with no finish line,” Praetz said.

And if a breach is detected, that new technology could significantly help the recover process, regardless of what happened.

“Recovery could be as simple as restoring lost data, and as difficult as hand-counting paper ballots to provide results that are trusted and true,” Praetz said.

He says getting it right is essential.

“Take away anything else from America, and it’s still America. Take away trusted elections and we cease to be, sort of, the shining city on the hill,” Praetz said.