Washington state says hackers try every day but that its election security is first in class
Local races and a handful of legislative special elections are the only things on the ballot in Washington next month, but the state's chief election official is nonetheless warning that hackers are hunting for a way to disrupt the contests. She's also asserting that her agency is up to the cybersecurity task because of lessons learned from Russia's 2016 interference.
"We have attempts every day," says Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican. "Tens of thousands of attempts to get into our system ... right now, we are just blocking all of them."
"Some are just trying to see what they can see, what can we get to and what can we play with," she told KIRO. "And some have bigger chess moves. They are trying to undermine confidence that voters have in our system."
She says Washington — a reliably blue bastion that hasn't given its dozen electoral votes to a Republican since 1984 — warded off repeated efforts by Russians to infiltrate its online voter registration system and other election software three years ago. Since then, the system has been significantly strengthened.
The VoteWa system has been overhauled. And the system for tabulating results has been revamped so it is air-gapped, meaning while it has electronic aspects, it is not connected to the Internet. The state also has firewalls build into the voter registration website. The online registration system that the public interacts with is not the same system that the state uses officially. And there are also backup plans for worst-case scenarios such as malware or ransomware getting though.
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Marginal improvements have been made to help voters understand the questions posed to them on the ballot this November, a new study concludes, but such ballot measures still favor the college-educated — who represent a minority of the U.S. population.
This year voters in eight states will decide the fate of a collective 36 such propositions. In a study released Thursday, Ballotpedia assessed how easy it is to comprehend what each proposal would accomplish, concluding that the difficulty level had decreased compared with the referendums decided in the last off-year election of 2017 — but not by much.
In fact, according to a pair of well-established tests, 21 of the 36 ballot measures cannot be understood by the 40 percent of the voting-age population who never attended college.
Colorado has become the second state to ask the Supreme Court to decide if states may legally bind their presidential electors to vote for the candidate who carried their state.
The issue of so-called faithless electors is the latest aspect of an increasingly heated debate about the virtues and flaws of the Electoral College that has blossomed, especially among progressive democracy reform advocates, now that two of the past five presidential winners (Donald Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in 2000) got to the Oval Office despite losing the national popular vote.