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  • 05 Apr 2018 1:17 PM | Anonymous

    Hacking Democracy

    It seems like not a single day goes by that there isn’t a major news story about worries of election interference, voting machines, & how our country is going to protect election infrastructure. 

    Over the last few months report after report has come out from a wide range of governmental and non-governmental organizations with recommendations on how states can improve their election security.  The recurring theme from these reports is simple.  Use paper ballots and perform robust statistically based post-election audits.  Is our state meeting these recommendations? It turns out, we have some work to do.

    Does Washington require all ballots to be returned on paper?

    As a vote by mail state, you might think all of our votes are submitted on paper, but where we aren’t meeting the paper ballot standard is with email return of ballots.

    Washington allows service and overseas voters to return their ballot via email attachment or fax, and there is no requirement that they additionally mail in their paper ballot. Washington also allows all voters, even those residing in state, to return their ballot via email attachment.  Without a doubt, Washington has the most lenient email ballot return laws in the country.   

    In the November 2016 election, over 17,000 ballots were returned via email or fax statewide.  Once a marked ballot is uploaded onto a voter’s computer, it is no longer a paper ballot.  It is a digital file.  And digital files can be manipulated in a number of different ways.

    What are some of the security concerns with returning a ballot by email?   

    Email is an insecure method of transmitting a marked ballot across the Internet.  Email is not encrypted therefore ballots can be intercepted, deleted, and modified in transit by a number of different mechanisms without either the voter or the election official knowing.  In addition, when election officials download ballot file attachments, the attachments can carry malware into an election network.    

    Can machines that are not tied into the internet be vulnerable to malware? 

    It is a common misconception that voting machines (including ballot scanners) operate in complete isolation from the Internet. Machines require software programs in order to operate, and typically software is written on computers that are connected to the Internet.  When software programs or updates are installed on the voting machines via removable media, this can be one mechanism for malicious actors to gain entry into a voting or tabulation system.  

    How can audits help secure our elections?

    In depth reports detailing election vulnerabilities have described Washington’s past post-election audits laws as “unsatisfactory”.  Post-election audits provide a means for election officials to detect fraud, tampering, and errors.  During the 2018 legislative session a bill was passed, sponsored by Representative Zack Hudgins of the 11th LD, giving county auditors the option to perform post-election risk-limiting audits.  Risk-limiting audits are resoundingly recommended by numerous national election integrity organizations, including the LWV. 

    What are risk-limiting audits?

    Risk-limiting audits are a statistically based post-election audit that limits the risk of election officials certifying an incorrect election outcome.  Compared to other audit methods, risk-limiting audits have been found to be efficient, and cost-effective.  The number of ballots audited depends on the margin of a race.  Ballots are randomly chosen and manually compared to either the cast vote record or to batch tabulation totals until there is strong evidence that the election outcome is correct.  Risk-limiting audits are currently the gold standard of ensuring that election outcomes are accurate with high confidence

    How can we protect our elections?

    With the current state of technology, paper ballots and robust post-audits are recommended by cybersecurity and election security experts in order to safeguard our elections.  Paper ballots, either marked by hand or with an assistive device, provide a means for voters to verify their vote.  And the paper gives election officials a record of every vote cast.  Statistically based manual post-election audits, such as risk-limiting audits, provide a means for detecting and correcting any errors or incorrect election outcomes.  Both are needed in order to protect and recover from election interference.

    Would you like to help?

    Being able to have confidence in election outcomes is a cornerstone of democracy.  Contact Kirstin Mueller  to learn more about how to get involved.

    Hacking Democracy Event Summary

    On Thursday March 29th, the LWV of Seattle King County and LWV of Washington teamed up with the UW CIAC (Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity) to host a forum on Election Security.  The evening included an overview of cybersecurity concerns surrounding voting systems, and a panel discussion with election security questions specific to Washington State

    Thank you to everyone who attended the forum, and to all those whose time and contributions made this event a success.  The forum was recorded, so stay tuned for a link to the video soon!

    The following day, Kathy Sakahara, the LWVWA Elections Chair and Kirstin Mueller, the LWVWA Election Security Chair, met with state policymakers and cybersecurity experts to discuss election security in Washington.   A lot of great topics were covered, and Kirstin demonstrated how easily an email ballot attachment can be intercepted and manipulated without detection by the voter or an election official. Based on the response, we are enthusiastic about continuing to work with legislators and others to advocate for best practices in this area. 

  • 05 Apr 2018 9:56 AM | Anonymous

    Our unique democracy’s success depends on fair, equal, and trusted representation. Elected officials should represent the rights, needs and desires of all residents. Yet we are under threat by partisan gerrymandering, secret map drawing, and court challenges. With clear laws a commission that lays out criteria for designing districts, Washington State is in a better position than many others. Still, according to the recent LWVWA report there is more we can do.

    Did you know?

    • In Washington State, the League has been active in redistricting reform to ensure equal voice for our citizens since the 1930s. 
    • The current Washington State Redistricting Commission structure and process was enacted into the Washington State Constitution in 1983.
    • The Redistricting Commission gets appointed in January and must complete the maps by November 15th in the years ending in ‘1’.

    Currently we are developing the League of Women Voters of Washington’s Census and Redistricting Advocacy Plan. It is sure to include actions we can take to enhance the transparency of the process, increase the representation of our diverse state, increase public participation in the redistricting process, and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the redistricting commission.

    Educational Forums

    Education is key to understanding how redistricting and the census impacts our representation and social policy, The League of Women Voters of Tacoma-Pierce County in partnership with Politics of the Possible in Action are currently conducting an educational campaign on redistricting by conducting a series of community discussion forums throughout Pierce County. The forum presentation includes basic information and resources on redistricting and reapportionment, decennial census, and gerrymandering,  as well as discusses different types of redistricting commissions and the current court cases.

    Upcoming Redistricting Forums Include: 

    Thursday, April 19th
    Hosted by League of Women Voters Pierce County 

    6:00 – 8:00pm
    Steilacoom Town Hall
    1717 Lafayette St.
    Steilacoom, WA 98388

    Saturday, April 21st
    Hosted by League of Women Voters Kitsap County

    10am -12Noon
    Suquamish Community Congregational United Church of Christ
    18732 Division Avenue NE,
    Suquamish, WA 98392
    Saturday, April 21st

    2pm-4pm
    Kitsap Regional Library - Sylvan Way Branch
    1301 Sylvan Way
    Bremerton, WA 98201

    There are plans for additional forum in downtown Tacoma and Kitsap county. Look for upcoming announcement on the League of Women Voters Tacoma-Pierce County Facebook page.

    If you would like a speaker on redistricting for an upcoming meeting, please contact Alison McCaffree

    Train the Trainers.

    League of Women Voters Tacoma-Pierce County is also excited to create a ‘forum in a box’ to assist other Leagues and community groups in developing and hosting their own forums. If you have someone or a group of people who would like to develop their own forum, please contact Alison McCaffree at to be the first to receive the package of information and schedule a training.

  • 05 Apr 2018 6:00 AM | Anonymous

    In 2020, as required by the constitution, the United States will once again set out to count all the people living within our borders.

    The Census is used for a multitude of purposes, including allocation of $600 billion in federal funds and apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The census is critical for funding everything from education to trash collection. It also provides a critical tool to help businesses make sound investment decisions.

    An incomplete or poorly done population count has repercussions throughout our government, economy, infrastructure and communities. 

    Unfortunately, problems loom.

    Recently the Secretary of Commerce made a decision to include a question pertaining to citizenship in the 2020 Census. This decision is bad for the census, bad for our communities and bad for America. Add your name to those who stand against the inclusion of the question. 

    The addition of a citizenship question for the first time since 1950 will imperil the chances for an accurate count of our country’s population. This question is designed to frighten immigrants—citizens and noncitizens alike—so they won’t participate in the Census. Adding this question now is not only unnecessary and jeopardizes the accuracy of the report, but it comes at a huge expense in terms of the time and cost of changing the forms. The bottom line is that the Commerce Department’s decision to include the question is costly and wrong and risks the accuracy of the entire project.

    Additionally, the Bureau has been without a director since June 2017 and faces an uphill battle in its fight to obtain sufficient funding throughout 2019 and 2020. Although the Census Bureau is actually being more cost-efficient than in previous years, concerns about costs and the transition to electronic data collection continue to threaten the entire project. 

    The financial situation led to cancellation of all five system tests that it had anticipated completing in Washington State prior to 2020. In preparation for the last Census in 2010, tests were completed at one field office in each of the state’s 9 Congressional Districts. There is now only a single field test being completed in the entire country.

    Communities in rural areas, those made up largely of low-income people, and those with high immigrant populations are also all less likely to have access to the internet and will therefore be more difficult to count under the new electronic system. The remedy for low returns in these areas entails hand re-counting, increased staff time and additional communications costs which would balloon the already too-small budget.

    So what can we do?

    1. Sign the petition against including a citizenship question. 
    2. Spread the word. Tell everyone you know, write letters to the editor! It can be challenging to focus on something that won’t happen for another two years, but it is imperative that we speak out now while change is actually possible.
    3. Contact your elected representatives at all levels to ask them if they know about the issues above and to find out what they are doing to help ensure a complete and accurate Census. Elected officials need to hear our voices to know that we care about this topic. Congress has the power to properly fund the Census Bureau and to overturn the decision to include the citizenship question.
    4. Consider joining a correct count committee in your community to help encourage people you interact with to complete their forms. These committees are formed either by local government entities (cities or counties) or community organizations (schools, churches, neighborhoods, etc). You can find more information by contacting League member Alison McCaffree.
    5. connect with organizations serving hard-to-count communities (rural, immigrant, homeless and low-income) and offer to help them in whatever capacity they most need.

    Your voice is important and desperately needed. We can make a difference that will be felt for a decade, but we must act now to stand up, be counted, and help others to do the same.


  • 21 Mar 2018 1:51 PM | Anonymous

    On March 16 the LWVWA board endorsed I-1600, the initiative that would require the establishment of a comprehensive state program to pay for health care for all Washington residents.  If approved, this coverage would be effective by November 2019, funded by premiums and taxes on employers, individual income, and capital gains.  Find out more about this initiative at www.yeson1600.org.

    Other organizations who have recently endorsed I-1600 are Washington NOW – National Organization for Women, Seattle NOW, Physicians for a National Health Program – Western Washington, and United for Single Payer.

    In the 2017-2018 Legislature a number of universal health care bills were introduced.  Four had public hearings: HB 1026, SB 5701, SB 5747, and SB 5957.  None of them were passed out of the committee of origin.  As a result, a grass roots organization, Whole Washington, decided to ask the Washington Secretary of State to approve the initiative that has been in the works for about a year. 

    Dr. Gerald Friedman, a national economist, was hired to do a funding study that would enable Washington State to cover health care costs for all residents.  Friedman has worked with other states to study funding for health care plans that would cover all state residents.  He designed the health care proposal that Bernie Sanders presented.  I-1600 is similar to universal, single payer, legislation that has been introduced in the Washington State Legislature for many years.

    The League of Women Voters has a long standing position on universal health care.

    I-1600 would establish a comprehensive state program to pay for health care services, prescriptions, and medical equipment for all Washington residents.

    Your help is needed to gather enough signatures for I-1600 to be approved for placement on the November 2018 ballot.  Donations are needed to enable positive communication of this initiative and for signature gathering costs.  At the present time there are no paid staff members working on this initiative, only volunteers working on a grassroots level.  Please help as much as you are able.  Below are some links with additional information to help you communicate with others.

    If you have questions, contact Susan Eidenschink


  • 07 Nov 2016 8:32 PM | Anonymous

    SEATTLE — Americans have learned a lot about how Donald Trump feels about people through Twitter. But how do Twitter users feel about Donald Trump? Computer scientists from the University of Utah have developed what they call "sentiment analysis" software that can determine how voters are feeling based on what they write or say.

    Feifei Li, an associate professor at the University who helped develop the program, said it provides a real-time window into how the public is reacting to political events.

    "What's cool is that you can actually adjust the lens of the window. If you look at the last few months of data altogether, the sentiments for Democrats is stronger than the sentiments for Republicans,” Li said. "Given the recent outburst of email scandals, things might change a little bit."

    Read the entire article >

The League of Women Voters of Washington is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization.
The League of Women Voters of Washington Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. LWVWA Education Fund contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the law.

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