Cybersecurity and Elections
By: Mary Hall

Thursday, June 21, 2018

​In January 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated election systems as critical infrastructure. Last week our Elections team and I attended the annual Washington State Elections Conference in Spokane hosted by the Washington State Association of County Auditors (WSACA). Past conferences have always had cybersecurity as an area of focus, but this year was different. Cybersecurity was the primary focus of the conference, with an entire day and a half dedicated to the topic. We brought in experts from the Department of Homeland Security, military intelligence, and the FBI to share their knowledge, best practices, and tools with participants.

I was glad to see the focus on cybersecurity. The threat of cyberattacks to our local governments is real. We only have to look at the City of Atlanta to see the potential impact—three months and millions of dollars after hackers successfully attacked the city with ransomware, one-third of their software programs remained limited or completely offline. We can't afford to be unprepared.

As Thurston County's chief elections officer, I'm keenly aware of the need to protect the integrity and security of our elections from cyberattacks. That's why I chair the county's cybersecurity task force. We're working with the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, and the military to take advantage of the resources they have available for local governments.

We already have a number of safeguards in place to protect our elections from cyber threats. Did you know that our ballot tabulation equipment is never connected to the internet so votes can't be changed  or manipulate? This is one of many examples of how we're protecting your vote.

To learn more about the safeguards we have in place at every step of the elections process, I invite you to tour our Ballot Processing Center in Tumwater. You can set up a tour by contacting our Elections team at elections@co.thurston.wa.us or 360.786.5408.

My office will continue to work with county, state, and federal security experts to ensure we're making every effort to keep your vote safe. Your August 7 Primary voters' pamphlet, which we send out on July 11, includes more examples of how we're keeping your vote secure.