There are many areas of the United States where voting practices can easily be questioned, but not here in Washington. With the extremely low voter turnout in 2016, and the new scare about ‘electronic systems’ being hacked, it is important that Washington residents understand that we have one of the most, if not THE most secure voting process in the country! It can be difficult to separate myth (or conspiracy theory) from reality at times, but here in Washington, myth or laziness must be the main cause of low turnout. Interestingly, one could say that myth and laziness are our own form of ‘voter suppression’!
Vote-by- mail insures on the front end that no one is precluded from voting due to work schedule, long lines, intimidation, insufficient time for research, bad weather, ill health, or any of the other excuses for not voting!
Use of both the Post Office, as well as over 30 drop-boxes which are locked and/or monitored removes the excuse of not having time to return a ballot, or not having a stamp!
So, that leaves only the ‘back end’ to worry about. And, that process is not networked, so is secured from the internet completely (thus no hacking), the process includes both manual counting of each ballot, each envelope (both security and outer) twice before they are then weighed and again counted by machine (twice)! The clever use of both manual labor, as well as machine shorting/tabulation all of which is tightly regulated also insures that no one knows how you voted! The combination of physical and technical redundancy insures that every vote is secure and counted.
The final stage of election certification takes place with a team than includes the County Auditor and staff, the County Prosecutor’s Office, the County Council Chair, and representatives of both political parties as invited observers. A detailed report, by precinct, includes the total votes, including over-votes, under-votes and write-ins. The report is prepared similar to any good accounting system which includes balancing ‘to the penny’ (which is this case is the vote).
Many of us know this for a fact, because we are official/certified Election Observers. Both political parties are given by law the right and responsibility for having people in the Elections Office at all times when election processing occurs. Both political parties have people on their teams of observers with technology backgrounds, including data security, information management, development and quality control. Some of these people arrive at the Elections Office both curious and suspicious! And to this day, with all that suspicion, and after hours of watching carefully, no one has found a hole in the system.
It is an extremely complex and labor-intensive process and therefore takes a textbook to become an expert. But, for anyone wishing more information, you can call either of the political parties to discuss their specific experience. If you are interested in working as an (unpaid) observer, you must arrange that through your preferred political party, and then take a certification class through the Elections Office.
But most importantly, do not let myth or conspiracy theories keep you from voting! And, secondly, if you have questions about the process, do be polite when contacting the Elections Office. Their staff is more dedicated than most customer service organizations, and should never be mistreated!