Washington state leads charge to get US to vote by mail in November
With a push beginning for a national vote-by-mail system to mitigate risks presented by COVID-19, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman is helping lead the charge.
The vote-by-mail option first became law in Washington state in 2005. Under Wyman’s guidance, the system has been expanded to include fully paid postage, a wide network of ballot drop boxes, and more stringent security measures.
The state has also seen historic increases in voter turnout over that period, while ensuring the state has a system uniquely prepared to function amid a pandemic.
That all being so, Republicans have voiced their opposition to a national vote-by-mail system. President Trump claimed Tuesday that such a system presented “tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
Herself a registered Republican, Wyman doesn’t see it as a partisan discussion.
“Oftentimes it is viewed through the lens of ‘what’s going to help or hurt my party,'” Wyman told KIRO Radio. “We need to make policy that’s good for our voters, allows a lot of access, and is secure so people can believe that it’s fair.”
“That’s what we should be focusing on, and try to move back a little bit from that partisan rhetoric,” she added.
As for the security concerns voiced by the President, Wyman hasn’t seen any such issues in Washington.
“That hasn’t been our experience in Washington state,” she described. “I think the important thing about a vote by mail system is that you build in controls.”
That includes a system that tabulates results from the state’s 39 counties from paper ballots, and then transfers that data 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 tallies.
With the general election looming in November, the idea of postponing over coronavirus concerns is “not an option,” Wyman notes. Short of that, she hopes to help mobilize other states to get on board with a vote-by-mail system to ensure safety and access.
“My staff and I are working really hard to try to bring both sides to the table to figure out how we’re going to serve our voters and serve our states well,” said Wyman. “Unfortunately, it’s already kind of blowing up a little bit along partisan lines — it’s going to be tough year.”