Elected officials all over the U.S. are asking questions about the security of America’s elections system. More than 20 states, including Washington, have confirmed outside attempts to get access to their electoral information.
In Spokane County, the top elections official says her office is working with the state to make sure the local system is as protected as it can be.
Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton says people’s fears about the integrity of local elections are real. She says she’s often asked about it. While she says the county’s system isn’t 100% immune to an outside attack…
“I would say that it’s as good as we can get it and we’re always aware that there are people, countries, trying to get in and disrupt elections administration," Dalton said.
Over the years, many elections offices around the country have turned to machines to make voting and ballot counting easier; not in Washington.
“Only a few counties flirted with the direct recording equipment that other states have and they’ve gone back to paper," Dalton said.
She says paper ballots give vote counters a better trail to follow in case they’re required to do recounts. They also reduce the exposure to outside hackers.
Dalton says Washington’s elections system is filled with built-in hurdles so that a breach in one part of the system won’t give intruders access to the entire system. For example, if someone accesses a voter registration database, they wouldn’t be able to use that to manipulate vote counts.
“The tabulation machines are never connected to the Internet. They’re totally separate, stand alone, removed. And physically, it’s really hard to get to them also," Dalton said. "Then, our computers that are used to create the programming to run the tabulators, those are not hooked to the Internet either. Those are completely separate and the only thing we use are sticks going back and forth between the machines and those sticks are encrypted.”
Dalton credits Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman with keeping county elections officials current about the threats to voting systems. She says the 2016 election heightened concerns and led to better procedures and, in her view, a more secure system.