OLYMPIA — Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman is seeking $1.8 million in state money for security in county election offices that would make Washington eligible for another $8.6 million in matching federal funds.
The Seattle Times reports that the budget request is part of an election security proposal Wyman, a Republican, unveiled Wednesday.
The bill also provides stricter penalties and restrictions surrounding the collection of ballots — which are mailed to each of the state’s nearly 4.5 million voters — and provides more thorough post-election audits for race recounts. It also would eliminate online ballots for military and overseas voters, to reduce the risk of potential malware coming into elections offices.
Federal officials have warned of election tampering and disinformation by Russia or other foreign influences. In 2016’s presidential elections, Russian hackers targeted the voting systems of all 50 states, though no breaches occurred in Washington.
“We’re anticipating that they are probably trying to influence campaigns as we sit here right now,” she said, adding later: “They just have to get it right once, we have to get it right 24/7.”
Democrats quickly criticized the attempt to protect against “ballot harvesting,” where a person collects other people’s ballots. The proposal would create a class C felony for anyone who knowingly destroys or fails to deliver a ballot on behalf of someone else. Wyman wants those collecting ballots from voters they don’t know to keep a log of those ballots and turn them over to elections officials in order to create a “chain of custody” to track ballots.
Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, said that more stringent requirements to collect ballots could result in voter suppression and he hadn’t heard about any problems on that front.
“It’s a solution looking for a problem right now,” said Hunt, who chairs Senate State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee.