Election security

State of security: Washington

Who’s in Charge: Secretary of State Kim Wyman, Director of Elections Lori Augino

In March 2018, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed into law House Bill 2406, which aims to improve election security by mandating the adoption of recognized best auditing practices, requiring voting system vendors to disclose data breaches, and authorizing the secretary of state to decertify vulnerable elections systems. The legislation had previously passed unanimously in the state’s House and Senate.

The Evergreen State is also in the midst of modernizing its election infrastructure with the ongoing implementation of its VoteWA Elections Management Project. All 39 counties have already committed to using the new system, which will be thoroughly tested for quality and should be ready for state and county elections by December 31, 2019.

While these improvements are not yet in place, Washington residents can at least take stock in the fact that they live in a vote-by-mail state, which means most votes will be recorded via secure paper ballots delivered via the postal service. With that said, however, half of the state’s counties do offer electronic DRE machines with paper-trail audits as an alternative for those voters who either require accessibility options or prefer to vote in person this manner.

 At present, Center of American Progress grades Washington a “C” in election security, citing a number of concerns, including insufficient audit standards and the fact that overseas military members can return their votes electronically without needed to have a paper ballot backup.

Still, there are positives. Back in March, the state was awarded nearly $8 million in federal funds to upgrade election security. Washington ensures election integrity by testing allvoting technology to EAC Voluntary Voting System Guidelines,performing vulnerability assessments, conducting mandatory audits for DRE machines (not required for paper ballots), and protecting its voter registration systems with access control, logging, and intrusion detection.

“We have partnered with the Washington National Guard, created our own Security Operations Center, and broadened post-election audits in Washington,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman in a July press release. “When the upgraded VoteWA elections system comes online in 2019, Washington will continue to be among the country’s most secure elections systems.”

Washington was one of the 21 states targeted by Russian hackers during the 2016 elections.

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