Are you alarmed and concerned about reports of Russian hacking of election systems in Arizona and Illinois? Are you troubled by news reports of excessively long lines at polls, voter ID controversies at polling sites and legislative restrictions on how many days before elections people are allowed to vote?
If so, you may wonder about our state’s system in terms of security and controversy. After all, we’ve been on the cutting edge of election innovation for decades.
We were the first state in the nation to have online candidate registration, first in the nation to provide voter registration via Facebook, second state in the nation to provide online voter registration, second state in the nation to have statewide vote-by-mail, first in the nation to have an elections results mobile app and the nation’s leader in providing voter information — including statewide voters’ pamphlets and an online MyVote system that provides each voter with full individualized information and much, much more.
Fortunately, Washington has a longstanding tradition of balancing physical security and technological security with accessible systems for the voters.
Since we have used so much technology and used the internet extensively, however, there are legitimate questions about whether our system is secure.
You are fortunate that our state is also a national leader in respect to election security and integrity.
Unlike many states that have touch screen or lever machine voting, ours is a paper-based system with voter verifiable paper audit trails, independent testing, pre- and post-election audits and rigorous physical security for ballot-counting equipment.
Ballot-counting equipment is required to be “stand alone” systems. In other words, they cannot and are not connected to the internet or any other internal systems. This makes hacking impossible.
On the other hand, you can register to vote via the internet. The voter rolls are networked but not publicly. We have a central database that is not available to the public. Visitors to the website that allows you to check your voter registration status are looking at a nightly copy of the voter rolls.
There is also tight security for the counties’ ballot-counting equipment and for the secretary of state’s equipment.
Counties are required to have their tabulation equipment in highly secured facilities. Access is closely guarded. When ballots are stored, two people have to be involved in moving them. The secretary of state’s servers are housed in a secure, single-tenant modern facility with dual redundant alarms, security cameras and FM200 protection. Access to the data center is restricted to three staff members with unique keypad pin numbers.
Daily firewall logs are reviewed at least four times a day. Regular security scans are performed to test and verify the security of firewalls, IPS and servers.
While this may be reassuring for you, you may wonder about the people administering elections in our state’s 39 counties.
Again, we’re a national leader. The Secretary of State’s Office has a certification and training program. It is responsible for training the local election administrators. To attain certification, rigorous requirements of elections experience and testing have to be met. Each county is required, by law, to have a certified administrator. Larger counties have several staff members certified. The training includes technological and facility security.
In addition, the staff members for this program regularly go out to the counties and review their operations. Among many other steps, they closely review security arrangements.
So, we are fortunate to live in a state that is a national leader in election administration. When I was secretary of state, I was called upon regularly to speak at the national level about how we do all this. The same is true with my successor.
We are fortunate too that we don’t have the problems being experienced in other states. Long lines at the polls. Voter ID requirements at the polls. Restrictions on the number of days one can vote. Because of vote-by-mail, we don’t have any of those controversial issues at play in our state.
In conclusion, you be confident that your vote will count and will be counted properly. Also, you can be sure that no hacker or jammer can manipulate the results.
I urge you to vote. It is your fundamental duty as an American citizen.
Sam Reed served three terms as secretary of state and more than 20 years as Thurston County auditor. He is a member of The Olympian’s 2016 Board of Contributors.