Washington’s election security remains strong as 2018 General Election vote count approaches record

  • Wednesday, November 14, 2018 2:48pm
  • News

The following from the Washington Secretary of State’s office:

Ongoing county ballot counts for the 2018 General Election are drawing near Washington’s 48-year-old record midterm turnout of 71.85 percent of registered voters. Secretary of State Kim Wyman on Tuesday credited the showing to strong voter interest and confidence in the integrity of state elections.

The convenience and security of Washington’s online voter-registration system and voter database constitute one of America’s soundest systems for electoral participation, Wyman said. Additional upgrades are planned to further safeguard elections integrity well ahead of the 2020 presidential election cycle.

Washington’s secure election defense mechanisms were probed unsuccessfully by Russian hackers during the 2016 election and have since been bolstered by improvements to firewalls, security software, and partnerships with the Department of Homeland Security, the Center for Internet Security, and the Washington National Guard. This technical expertise has enabled a wide range of system testing, monitoring and detection, enhancing our continuity of operations plans for cyber events, staff training, and providing election officials access to a multitude of resources.

Misinformation in a news report this week theorized that Washington’s online voter-registration system could contain similar points of vulnerability to those of other states.

The report identified elections vulnerabilities related to an outside vendor that has not provided any software or other technical products to the Office of Secretary of State’s elections division. The report also asserted unsupported conjecture that “a roomful of people” in another nation could make “educated guesses” about drivers’ license data to alter Washington voters’ registrations online unnoticed.

Washington’s robust elections defenses have long and successfully guarded against just such intrusions, and continue to do so. The exploratory probe in 2016 immediately triggered a blocking of all traffic from IP addresses related to the foreign point of origin. Mass address changes, or multiple attempts to guess one voter’s credentials, are instantly identified and flagged, and the suspicious IP address is locked out.

Additionally, any voter’s request for a registration change is confirmed via both email and a physical confirmation letter sent to the voter’s existing postal address. Under the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, each state must maintain a public roll of registered voters. The elections system’s in-house protections, plus others enacted by the Washington state Legislature and Department of Licensing, ensure that Washington’s registrations will remain secure.

Many other lines of defense safeguard the integrity of Washington’s elections, from high-tech monitoring software and security training at state and county levels to the practical measures of keeping a paper record of every ballot cast and maintaining an “air gap” to separate all tabulation equipment from any point of internet access.

Any Washington voter can verify their registration anytime at MyVote.wa.gov, and our system uses multiple forms of detection and verification to assure that only that voter, or a voter-authorized party, can update a registration. In 2019, a voter-registration system upgrade will also give all 39 counties instantaneously synchronized voter rolls.

“With ballots and voters’ pamphlets mailed weeks before every Election Day, every registered voter in Washington is able to ensure that their voices can be heard,” said Secretary Wyman, who is a nationally-recognized expert in elections security.

“I’m proud of the unparalleled security and ballot access that mark every election in Washington,” Wyman added. “The confidence of every Washingtonian in the security and integrity of our elections process is my mission and mandate. Our success has led the nation and will continue to do so.”

To learn more about Washington’s elections security, please visit https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/system-security.aspx.

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