Russian interference in U.S. elections remains a serious threat to our nation — and it must be stopped.

Last week a new U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 election found that election systems in all 50 states were targeted in some manner. It went on to say that the federal government failed to properly warn states about that threat. In addition, election systems remain vulnerable.

Admitting there’s a problem is welcome, and it now means steps should be taken to make our elections more secure from coast to coast.

The Senate panel’s investigation found that Russia’s 2016 interference began as early as 2014 and continued into at least 2017. However, it found no evidence that any votes were changed or that any voting machines were compromised.

The committee offered a solid recommendation. It said the Department of Homeland Security should be encouraged to improve its coordination with state election officials while stating firmly that states would remain in the lead on running elections, according to The Washington Post.

Running elections is clearly the purview of the individual states. States conduct their statewide elections, and through county auditor’s offices, with state oversight, local elections are conducted.

Even presidential and congressional elections should be under state control, as those serving in the U.S. House and Senate are representing state residents, as do the electors sent to the Electoral College to elect the president.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., disagreed with the committee’s conclusion on keeping in states in charge of elections.

“We shouldn’t ask a county election IT employee to fight a war against the full capabilities and vast resources of Russia’s cyber army,” Wyden wrote in a minority opinion to the committee’s report. “That approach failed in 2016, and it will fail again.”

But it was the federal government that failed to alert states. The states, given that no votes were changed or voting machines compromised, did their jobs properly.

The key to fail-safe security in our election is at the heart of how elections are conducted in Washington and many other states: paper ballots.

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 when necessary.

In Walla Walla County, for example, the vote count data is not put on a network where other computers could have access. The results from the paper ballots are tabulated and then loaded using a drive to transfer to a computer. Computer hackers have absolutely no way of altering the original information, which can rechecked if necessary.

While the federal government does need to beef up cyber security, control of elections must remain at the state and local levels.

Editorials are the opinion of the Union-Bulletin's Editorial Board. The board is composed of Brian Hunt, Rick Eskil, James Blethen and Alasdair Stewart

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