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Washington will receive $7.9 million to upgrade elections systems and enhance cybersecurity

Washington will receive nearly $8 million to upgrade its elections systems and bolster cybersecurity thanks to the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that was signed by Donald Trump on Friday.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 allocates $380 million for states to upgrade their elections systems and requires states to match funding by 5 percent within two years. For Washington, that amounts to nearly 400,000 additional dollars going toward improving voting infrastructure and protecting against election interference.

“With this funding, we’ll be able to bring new resources and technology together to improve our ongoing cybersecurity efforts,” says Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “We’ll be working with our county elections officials to identify key areas that will benefit from this allocation and ultimately make the elections system here in Washington even stronger than it already is.”

Back in September, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified 21 states, including Washington, that their systems had been targeted by hackers during the 2016 presidential election. Though ultimately unsuccessful in Washington, the news brought increased concern for the security and legitimacy of future elections.

A few days prior to DHS’s notification, the Secretary of State’s office released an RFP to completely modernize Washington’s Voter Registration Database, county elections management systems, and the Washington Election Information System. Shortly after, we interviewed Lori Augino, Washington State’s Director of Elections, where we discussed the RFP and Russia’s hacking attempts.

During the 2018 session, lawmakers also introduced legislation to improve Washington’s election security. Representative Zack Hudgins, Chair of the State Government, Elections & Information Technology Committee, sponsored three bills aimed at increasing the accuracy and legitimacy of all methods of voting in the state. HB 2406 expands election auditing practices and requires disclosure of security breaches by the manufacturers of voting systems. The bill ultimately passed in the Senate and House unanimously and the Governor signed it into law last week. Hudgins’s other election security bills, HB 2387 and HB 2527, did not make it out of committee.

Plans for how the $8 million in funding will be used have not been specified, but the state has 90 days to provide the Election Assistance Commission with their utilization proposal.

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