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WA Secretary of State Kim Wyman talks voter expansion, election hacking

Secretary of State Wyman. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Washington state Secretary of State Kim Wyman took to Reddit this week along with Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon to answer burning questions of voters ahead of November’s midterms.

Wyman said that Washington’s switch to mail-in voting in 2011 “has most assuredly helped democracy,” as the mail-in system has increased voter turnout. Other advantages of the mail-in voting system, according to Wyman, include the convenience it gives voters, the 18-day window they have to educate themselves on issues and candidates before voting, and the paper trail that it leaves.

On the flip-side, however, some voters have trouble finding drop-off boxes, making it so “you lose the sense of community and ceremony that you had with traditional polling places,” Wyman wrote. “Also, no more ‘I voted’ stickers.”

RELATED: Kim Wyman says she’s never seen a winning candidate question an election

When asked why Washington does not have automatic voter registration, Wyman replied that in 2019, the state will begin automatic registration when people apply for an enhanced driver’s license, state identification card, or benefits, though people will have the option to opt out of this registration.

“In these cases, people have already proven their citizenship, so why wouldn’t we register them automatically?” she wrote.

She added that the Future Voter program — which, like the new automatic registration system, was signed into law by the governor this past spring — will contribute to the cause by enrolling 16- and 17-year-olds in a civics program that will automatically register them to vote when they turn 18.

“Data proves that young people who get involved in voting become lifelong voters,” she said.

Since Washington is a state that permits online voter registration, she said, it is relatively easy for new voters to enroll.

However, while Wyman applauds online voter registration, she stops short of the idea of one day implementing actual online voting, citing “too many potential vulnerabilities” in such a process.

One Reddit user brought up King County’s decision to fund postage for all mail-in ballots. Wyman explained that she and Governor Inslee worked to spread this benefit to all Washington voters, so that no one is prevented from voting by having to buy a stamp.

“After learning that King County was moving forward, I felt that voters across Washington needed to be treated equally,” she wrote. “I asked the governor to partner with me in providing funds to every county for pre-paid ballot return postage in the 2018 Primary and General Election. Now it’s up to the Legislature to decide if that will become permanent.”

Wyman also addressed the concern of foreign tampering in the 2016 election.

“Washington was also one of the 21 states targeted in 2016 by foreign actors, however our security systems prevented any kind of intrusion,” she said. “In fact, we alerted the FBI to the suspicious activity. And our security systems have only gotten more robust since then.”

The secretary did not answer questions that related to specific contentious issues in Washington, such as the inclusion of I-1639 on November’s ballot after it was initially found unlawful by a judge but later upheld by the state Supreme Court, and the court battles between Attorney General Bob Ferguson and citizen activist Tim Eyman.

To help ensure that everyone who wants to registers to vote, Wyman recommended organizing voter registration drives.

“Our job is to empower our communities to get the word out to citizens by giving them access to information and tools,” Wyman wrote.

More information on how to organize a voter registration drive can be found at vote.wa.gov.

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