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Lawmakers work to strengthen Washington’s election security

On Monday, the House passed a series of legislation to help ensure the security of Washington elections. Representative Zack Hudgins, Chair of the House State Government, Elections, and Information Technology Committee, sponsored three bills aimed at increasing the accuracy and legitimacy of all voting methods in Washington State.

On September 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified 21 states, including Washington, that they had been targeted by hackers during the 2016 election. Though the hackers were ultimately unsuccessful in Washington, the incident brought increased awareness and concern for the legitimacy of future elections.

When it comes to election security, a report from the Centers for American Progress gives Washington an overall “C” grade. According to the report, Washington’s unsatisfactory post-election auditing puts the state at risk for hacking.  Currently, the state only mandates audits of electronic voting machines with paper outputs. Post-election audits for paper ballots are voluntary. This is especially risky for vote-by-mail states like Washington that rely significantly on paper ballots. The report also says Washington’s ballot accounting and reconciliation are insufficient and need improvement. Rep. Hudgins’s bills are expected to address several of the key concerns raised in the report.

HB 2406 passed in the House by a 97-1 vote and outlines several actions and auditing procedures that would help verify the accuracy of voting systems. The bill would require county auditors to audit electronic ballot return systems, require manufacturers of voting systems to disclose breaches in security, and authorize the Secretary of State to decertify voting systems in certain situations.

Hudgins’s other two election security bills are HB 2387 and HB 2527 which both passed unanimously out of the House. HB 2387 would create mandatory random checks on ballot counting equipment and require the creation of an auditing process in instances where discrepancies are found. HB 2527 would require the Secretary of State to evaluate each county’s procedures for these random checks in order to identify and encourage specific best practices.

“The measures we’ve passed today will establish Washington as a national leader in protecting the integrity and legitimacy of our elections from those who intend to undermine them,” said Rep. Hudgins. “These measures will allow us to identify and get tough on those who attempt to undercut our elections, while assuring the public that we have a fair, secure, and transparent democratic process.”

The passage of these bills comes as top US intelligence officials warned the Senate Intelligence Committee of the likelihood of Russian interference in U.S. 2018 elections. All three bills will now move to the Senate for consideration.

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