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How Washington state plans to avoid repeat of Iowa caucus debacle

The app used for 2020's Iowa caucus. (AP)

A new, largely untested voting app had Monday’s Iowa Democratic caucus in chaos to kick off 2020’s presidential primaries, a process that Washington state hopes to avoid when its own primary comes around.

Washington state angles for relevance in 2020 presidential election

“This is why I pushed so hard a few years ago to get the Democratic Party and the Republican Party to get behind [paper ballots],” Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman told KTTH’s Jason Rantz.

Washington’s primary will take place on March 10, two months earlier than it’s been in the past. That vaults it ahead of 16 scheduled primaries in 2020, and just one week after Super Tuesday.

That — and a recent switch to a popular vote rather than a caucus — will have the state in a larger national spotlight than it’s ever seen during the presidential primaries, and it’s one that Wyman says Washington is ready to handle.

The state’s voting system exists largely offline using paper ballots, a method many experts agree is far more secure than electronic voting.

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.

Iowa’s own issues stemmed from the use of a voting app commissioned by the state’s Democratic Party, and built in less than two months. And while indications were its malfunctions weren’t related to hacking, Wyman points out that using any app to vote is still extremely risky.

“I have yet to meet a cybersecurity expert who thinks that [voting apps are] a good idea,” she noted.

King County district will test out voting on smartphones

While predicting “record-breaking turnout, particularly on the Democratic side” for Washington’s March primary, Wyman also wants to stress that there’s no reason to lose confidence in the state’s own voting system, despite how things have transpired in Iowa.

“My biggest fear right now is what’s happening in Iowa will have this ripple effect of really hurting public confidence in elections,” she described. “People just hear, ‘oh, you know that the election was rigged’ or ‘oh, you know, the technology failed,’ and they don’t really realize that those were campaign volunteers in the campaign apparatus that were doing it, not actual election officials that are tasked with that responsibility.”

Washington primary election ballots will begin getting mailed out on Feb. 21, kicking off an 18-day voting window.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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