GLASGOW — Sheri Donahue, Democratic candidate for state auditor, made a stop at the Fine Arts Bistro on Thursday where she talked about her desire to protect taxpayer dollars.
“That's what the auditor's office is about, protecting our tax payer dollars,” she said.
Donahue is running against incumbent Republican Mike Harmon for the position.
Donahue is from the Louisville area and holds a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University. She worked 20 years for the U.S. Navy, serving as program manager for security and intelligence. She has also coordinated domestic security information for the Federal Bureau of Investigations and has done some work for Humana in cybersecurity.
If elected, one thing she wants to do is audit the state's electronic voting machines.
“Our voting machines are paid for by taxpayer dollars and it's also protecting the infrastructure of our elections,” she said.
She also wants to modernize the IT security of financial audits.
“All of the government transactions, all the record-keeping is done on computer, so it does fall under the state auditor's office to do IT security audits at the state level, but nobody is doing it at the county level,” she said. “What I want to do is incorporate cybersecurity into the financial audits, so when the auditors go out they are not just looking at information, but they are also making sure that information is being protected.”
She referenced an incident that occurred in Tallahassee, Florida where $500,000 in payroll was stolen from the city and wasn't recovered.
Another incident occurred in Jackson County, Georgia that was hit with ransomeware, she said.
“Their systems were locked down. They had to pay $400,000 just for the hackers to unlock their system,” Donahue said. “That money is gone. I feel like we can't afford not to improve our cybersecurity because hackers go after the weak spot and the weak spots are going to be these counties that don't have budgets to pay for cybersecurity professionals.”
There are three voting machine vendors used in Kentucky. One of which provides voting machines for 94 of the state's 120 counties.
Donahue has questioned the vendor about the programming of their voting machines and how many people they assign to do that task. She also asked if they performed background checks on those who program the voting machines and where the voting machines are stored in between elections.
She pointed out that if an opportunity exists where data recorded on the voting machines can be manipulated, then the voting is not being validated.
Donahue supports the use of paper backups, but said they are typically only used when there is a contested election.
“They are not using them to validate that the votes that are recorded electronically are accurate, so there is no validation being done,” she said.
Elections across the state are overseen by county clerks in each county, and Donahue said she has been talking to county clerks about the need to validate elections.
“There are a lot of things that can be done to influence our elections and our democracy is based on open, fair elections,” she said. “That's really why I decided to run anyway. I feel like we don't have faith in our government. Too many things are happening in the dark, behind closed doors. The governor seems to do whatever he wants to do regardless of the legislature.”
The campaign has been going well so far, Donahue said.
“We're getting very good reception when we speak about cybersecurity, because … it's a non-partisan thing,” she said, adding that as state auditor she is going to be looking at protecting the tax payers' dollars regardless.
She explained that when she worked for the Navy she did so under two Republican presidents and under two Democratic presidents.
“It didn't matter what the party was,” she said, adding that she did her job regardless of political party affiliation.
“That's the way it should be for the auditor's office,” Donahue said. "We need a strong attorney general. We need a strong auditor. People who will get in there and ask those questions and bring people to account.”
Donahue is scheduled to speak on Saturday afternoon at Fancy Farm.