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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Pacific NW

Despite more threats, Washington voting system not breached, elections officials say

Oct. 26, 2020 Updated Wed., Oct. 28, 2020 at 7:46 a.m.

A voter casts her ballot at the downtown Spokane Public Library. The box is located on the east wall of the building facing Nordstroms.  (Libby Kamrowski)
A voter casts her ballot at the downtown Spokane Public Library. The box is located on the east wall of the building facing Nordstroms. (Libby Kamrowski)

OLYMPIA – Although attempts to disrupt the U.S. elections have increased, Washington’s voting system is safer than it was in 2016 and has withstood any attacks, state and local elections officials said Monday.

Those findings dovetail with news that nearly half of all ballots sent out have been returned in an unprecedented early vote.

The state’s Elections Security Operations Center has been monitoring the VoteWA system and the 39 counties’ elections systems for any attacks, Secretary of State Kim Wyman said.

“We’re confident that our system has not had any breaches, has not been compromised in any way and that it is operating fully secure,” she said.

Using some $20 million in federal funds for cybersecurity, the state built strong firewalls around the system and ways to monitor the traffic going in and out of VoteWa.

“We have a much higher confidence level than we did, even two years ago, with the cybersecurity of our system,” Wyman said.

The state shares information with federal agencies and election information centers around the country that track data.

“So when they start seeing an (internet protocol) address out of Iran that’s hitting every elections office in the country … they can let us know what we need to block,” she said.

On election night they will be monitoring the state and county websites where the results are posted to make sure no one is reporting erroneous information, but will also rely on information from the public.

“If you see election results that don’t look right or something’s off, please contact us,” Wyman said.

That would include any problems seen at drop boxes, where voters can deposit ballots without sending them through the mail. One drop box in Mill Creek was damaged over the weekend, but that was the result of a traffic accident, Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell said. The ballots inside were secure.

Elections officials also have discussed security on Election Day with local law enforcement and the Washington State Patrol.

Washington will count ballots that are postmarked by Nov. 3 for three weeks after Election Day, so close races could be in doubt that long. But with ballots being returned at a record pace, the total number of votes reported from processed ballots could be higher than usual and election night results more meaningful, Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said.

As of Monday evening 51.1% of Spokane County ballots, and 46.4% of ballots statewide, had been received. Not all of those ballots can be processed, however, because of problems discovered in processing such as ballot envelopes the voter didn’t sign or a signature that doesn’t match the one on file.

Of the Spokane County ballots already received, 207 were unsigned and 688 had signatures that didn’t match the file. Elections staff is contacting those voters in an effort to get them to correct the problems.

Ballots can be deposited in drop boxes until 8 p.m. Nov. 3 or mailed so that they are postmarked by that day. If mailing on Election Day at a blue collection box, voters should check to make sure that the last pickup time hasn’t passed; if so, they should take it to a post office to make sure it is postmarked that day.

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