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Washington election officials double down on security efforts; ask public to report misinformation

Seattle Post-Intelligencer logo Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10/26/2020 by Callie Craighead, SeattlePI

With just one week until the election and over two million ballots processed statewide, Washington election officials are doubling down on their security efforts and asking citizens to report any false information they see ahead of the election.

On Monday, Secretary of State Kim Wyman spoke with auditors from various counties across the state to give an update on election security and stated that there have not been any breaches at this time.

"There are constant threats and there are constant threat actors and we have spent the last 15 years trying to build up defenses against them," said Wyman.

Amid a turbulent election cycle, the office is currently reporting that 41.7% of eligible voters in the state have returned their ballots, shattering earlier turnout records.

Columbia, Ferry, Jefferson and Pacific counties all reported that over 50% of ballots had been returned. King County, the largest in the state with 1.4 million voters, is currently reporting that 45.3% of ballots have been received and processed.

Klickitat and Okanogan County were the only ones reporting less than 25% received. However, the office notes that some counties may not be processing ballot return envelopes every day.

While there have been foreign attempts to intimidate and confuse American voters, Washington election officials said that the state was "ahead of the curve" compared to others by having already implemented universal mail-in voting years earlier.

From cyber-security improvements to coronavirus-related protocols, state officials emphasized their level of preparedness but also asked citizens to remain vigilant about disinformation.

Wyman said voters should only use trusted sources and contact local elections offices if they see falsified information about the election.

"We are anticipating in the eight days leading up to the election day, and certainly potentially the days after the election misinformation and disinformation campaigns being shared not only on social media but across the internet," Wyman said.

As for what voters can expect on election night itself, Stevens County Auditor Lori Larsen shared that election night reporting follows time-specific guidelines for accuracy, meaning any information reported before the polls officially close may be false.

"It's important for the public to be aware that election nigh reporting is a multi-step process, several of those steps cannot commence until 8 p.m." Larsen said. "If votes are released via social media earlier than the process actually takes, that could be an indicator of misinformation."

But that doesn't mean voters will know the results on Nov. 3. County canvassing boards have until Nov. 24 to certify the results of the general election, and the Secretary of State's Office will certify the results Dec. 3.

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