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Timmy Roussel

A cyberattack that forced the shutdown of St. James Parish government's computer network did not interrupt early voting for runoff elections Nov. 16 or affect the public schools, according to state and parish school officials.

"There was no stop in voting, just a change of the means," Tyler Brey, spokesman for the Louisiana Secretary of State's office, said Thursday.

Workers in the parish's Registrar of Voters offices had to switch from electronic voting machines to scanned paper ballots for several hours earlier this week while the state took its own system offline as a security precaution.

Brey said voting continued Thursday on standard electronic machines and is expected to do so until early voting ends Saturday.

In addition to the statewide runoffs for governor and secretary of state, voters in some parts of St. James will be deciding on two Parish Council seats: District 4 in the Convent area and District 5 in western St. James.

Parish officials said Wednesday a phishing attack that state investigators believe originated in Russia hit the parish's computer network.

The method of the attack was similar to what was used against school systems in Tangipahoa and other public schools this summer. It's not clear the same hackers were involved.

The attack in St. James was discovered Sunday afternoon and prompted a system shutdown to halt the attack. The shutdown affected not only parish government offices on both sides of the Mississippi River but also those for the sheriff, assessor and clerk of court.

Those offices all share the same network. Parish officials said the system is to be up by Friday. An email address and telephone landline for the registrar's office weren't working Thursday.

The registrar's office is on a state system and parish officials have already said voter rolls were not affected in the attack, but Brey said the attack did prompt the state's own precautionary security measures. Similar steps were taken after the attacks on public schools this summer, he said.

Kasha Williams, St. James school's programs manager, said the schools' network wasn't hit in the attack. 

"Our IT team has done everything that it needed to do to make sure that we're secure," he said.

Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.