MERCER — After participating in a voting cyber security training exercise with 10 of his counterparts from throughout the state, Jeff Greenburg, Mercer County’s elections director, said the event itself was an encouraging sign.

“You feel like the wagons are finally getting circled,” he said.

Greenburg said aspects of the exercise are classified, so he could not share specifics on what was discussed, but he said the four-hour “Tabletop the Vote” telephone exercise focused on scenarios for securing voting hardware and procedures. The exercise was administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of State and Pennsylvania’s Department of Administration.

Tabletop exercises merely refer to a meeting, either in person, online or by telephone, to simulate an emergency scenario.

Mercer County already takes voting security measures by, among other actions, keeping the ballot hardware disconnected from the internet. The only county voting system that connects to the web is the portion that is used to report results online, and that software does not interface directly with the devices voters use to cast ballots during elections.

Exercises such as Tabletop the Vote will continue over the next few months, according to a press release from the Pennsylvania Department of State. The office of Homeland Security, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, state police, state Inspector General, and the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs also participated in the exercise.

However, Greenburg said the exercise convinced him that he has allies in Harrisburg and Washington in the battle to keep Mercer County’s election systems secure in the light of reports that Russian hackers attempted to penetrate systems in more than 20 U.S. states, including Pennsylvania.

“It is especially reassuring to know there are many state and federal resources that we can lean on in the event of an incident,” Greenburg said.

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