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Seattle Times: Elections security: Email ballot return

This letter to the editor was originally published in the Seattle Times.

Re “With Russian hacking fresh in mind, state beefs up elections cybersecurity”:

The League of Women Voters of Washington commends Secretary of State Kim Wyman for her office’s proactive steps to secure Washington’s elections in response to threats of interference by foreign nations and hackers.

Washington is the only state that allows all voters to return a ballot via email attachment. Military and overseas voters are not required to additionally send a paper ballot, but a paper ballot is required for all other voters. For military and overseas voters, the paper ballot is never looked at or counted. The emailed ballot is the official vote.

Ballots returned via email must be downloaded and opened by election officials, creating an opportunity for the spread of malware. Emailed ballots can be easily hacked without the voter or election officials ever knowing. Many email voters don’t realize they must return a paper ballot. Failure to do so means their vote isn’t counted. Discontinuing this practice would both improve security and ensure that all votes are counted.

We are proud to be working with Secretary Wyman on this issue and encourage her to amend the Washington Administrative Code in time for the November 2018 election to restrict email ballot return. This simple change would be an important step to securing our elections.

Kirstin Mueller, election security chair, League of Women Voters of Washington