Washington’s Voting Systems Updated

Gianna Richards, Staff

Washington’s old voting machines, which dated to 2006, just got replaced with new systems at the end of July because the technology was prone to hacking caused by its old age. 

James Marshall, a security guard at the Puyallup Public Library, who has been voting for 20 years feels it is important to democracy.  

“The human integrity of voting is sacred, and it tests our resolve as human beings to do things without machines,” Marshall said.

The old systems that the voting machines used were a version of Microsoft’s old technology, which will stop being supported by Microsoft themselves because of their exposure to hacking. After 12 years of support, on April 8, 2014, Microsoft released an announcement saying that  would not be supporting the Windows XP operating system. Microsoft also said that they will not be furnishing security updates, as well as technical support. The old technology that they had previously used had recurring problems with degrading touchscreens, worn out modems, a device that makes it possible for computers to communicate with one another without being directly connected to each other, for sending election results, as well as motherboards and memory cards failing.  

“I think that money could be better spent on sheltering the homeless, feeding, and taking care of them,” Marshall said.

President Donald Trump granted the state’s $380 million to make election security improvements by signing the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, March 23. The money that was spent to purchase the computers and software cost $750,000 and despite spending that much money the tech is still vulnerable to hacking because it doesn’t have a paper trail to notify them that someone has gotten into the system.

“Technology is wonderful in certain places, certain aspects. As I said we have to look at the whole aspect of the things. Do we really need it?” What would happen if in the middle of voting, technology were to go down? You’d have to go back to manual,” Marshall said.

In around half of the United States, the secretary of state is the official in charge of elections; in other states it is someone appointed for the job, or a commission. It is this person or commission who is responsible for certifying, tabulating, and reporting votes for the state.

According to the Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman on her website, “Voters can rest assured that Washington’s Election system is secure. We have embarked on an unprecedented opportunity to work collaboratively with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that our election systems remain secure. This partnership allows us to work together, elections and IT [information technology] experts working hand in hand to ensure our systems are secure.”