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WA Sec. Kim Wyman: Smartphone voting ‘too risky’ to implement

Boxes where paper ballots are tabulated in Washington. (AP)

Washington’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman is not a fan of Wednesday’s first electronic ballot in the country. King County’s Conservation District is letting people vote on their phones or a computer.

The election is for the district’s board supervisor. There are 1.2 million registered voters in 34 cities including unincorporated King County, and all of them can use the “Omni-ballot” platform on their phones beginning Jan. 22, and extending to a scheduled Feb. 11 election day. Typical voter turnout for this election has hovered around 1 percent in past years.

King County district will test out voting on smartphones

Wyman does not oppose e-voting outright, as it’s less expensive, but security experts say it’s just not secure enough.

“Overwhelmingly, they’ve defined electronic transmission as too risky and that it could leave voter information vulnerable, and our election infrastructure impaired if it’s not secured,” she said.

She says mobile voting lacks a paper-ballot back up in case of problems, and she is asking the Legislature to roll back its usage until the systems are more secure.

“They’re not safe for the voter because we cannot guarantee that their ballot isn’t tampered with, and they could be a method for a hacker to introduce malware or ransomware into our county partner’s system or our own system.”

In recent elections, Washington state has doubled down on security measures to keep voting off of internet-connected devices.

Typically, results from each of the state’s 39 counties are tabulated from paper ballots, and then transferred to an air-gapped machine (i.e. a computer not connected to the internet). The results are then transferred to a flash drive, which is plugged into an internet-enabled computer to transmit the final results.

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Even so, Wyman says her office does not have authority over some elections like the King Conservation District’s.

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