When it comes to conducting elections, paper ballots are the gold standard. Those ballots can’t be tampered with through a cyber attack and can always be recounted.
And since Washington state conducts its elections primarily using paper mail-in ballots, the state’s system is among the most secure in America.
Yet, Secretary of State Kim Wyman is beefing up security and, at the same time, hoping to assure voters the election is fair and their ballots will be counted properly.
The Secretary of State’s Office is working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to beef up cyber security for voter registration and emailed ballots from service members stationed out of the country.
It’s a wise decision at a time when many are skeptical of our government and deeply divided by partisan politics. Wyman is pushing for more resources for her office and the counties, which administer elections, to make more secure the information-technology capabilities and training.
“The frightening thing for me is that there are those that are trying to undermine democracy at its foundation,” said Wyman. “That if they can cast doubt on the outcome of an election, people start to lose confidence in our election system.”
The Seattle Times reported Wyman’s office is poised to sign an agreement to allow Washington Air National Guard cybersecurity experts to help with anti-hacking efforts. This is expected to bring in an added layer of expertise to look at the system before November’s general election.
This is a welcome move, as it bolsters public confidence in our elections now and into the future.
In Walla Walla County, the vote count data is not put on a network where other computers could have access. County Elections Supervisor Dave Valiant said in 2016 that results are put on a Zip disk and then carried to a Zip drive (introduced in 1994) to be loaded onto a computer.
Since there is no internet involved — only the old fashioned sneaker-net (as in walking) — hackers can’t access or change the information.
While paper ballots are at the core of our local and state election system, computers are involved. Over time, as new equipment and technology are introduced into conducting elections, the need for the best cybersecurity will increase.
The Air National Guard’s units are described as “probably (the) nation-leading cyber squadrons” that have worked with the U.S. Department of Defense. The group will consist of about a dozen people, including Guard members who in their day jobs work at Microsoft, Amazon or security companies, The Times reported.
That should make us all feel even better about an election system that is already ultra-secure.