Editor’s note: Today’s editorial originally appeared in The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and The (Medford) Mail Tribune. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
When it comes to conducting elections, paper ballots are the gold standard. Those ballots can’t be tampered with through a cyber attack and can always be recounted.
And since Washington state conducts its elections primarily using paper mail-in ballots, the state’s system is among the most secure in America.
Yet, Secretary of State Kim Wyman is beefing up security and, at the same time, hoping to assure voters the election is fair and their ballots will be counted properly.
The Secretary of State’s Office is working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to beef up cyber security for voter registration and emailed ballots from service members stationed out of the country.
It’s a wise decision at a time when many are skeptical of our government and deeply divided by partisan politics. Wyman is pushing for more resources for her office and the counties, which administer elections, to make more secure the information-technology capabilities and training.
“The frightening thing for me is that there are those that are trying to undermine democracy at its foundation,” said Wyman. “That if they can cast doubt on the outcome of an election, people start to lose confidence in our election system.”
The Seattle Times reported Wyman’s office is poised to sign an agreement to allow Washington Air National Guard cybersecurity experts to help with anti-hacking efforts. This is expected to bring in an added layer of expertise to look at the system before November’s general election.
This is a welcome move, as it bolsters public confidence in our elections now and into the future.
In Walla Walla County, the vote count data is not put on a network where other computers could have access. County Elections Supervisor Dave Valiant said in 2016 that results are put on a Zip disk and then carried to a Zip drive (introduced in 1994) to be loaded onto a computer.
Since there is no internet involved — only the old fashioned sneaker-net (as in walking) — hackers can’t access or change the information.
While paper ballots are at the core of our local and state election system, computers are involved. Over time, as new equipment and technology are introduced into conducting elections, the need for the best cybersecurity will increase.
The Air National Guard’s units are described as “probably (the) nation-leading cyber squadrons” that have worked with the U.S. Department of Defense. The group will consist of about a dozen people, including Guard members who in their day jobs work at Microsoft, Amazon or security companies, The Times reported.
That should make us all feel even better about an election system that is already ultra-secure.
Human-caused fires are preventable. Don’t start them
It’s only the second week of July, and wildfires are already popping up around the state, including one that has crossed the California border.
Eastern Oregon bore the brunt of fire activity last month, with three lightning-caused blazes devouring more than 135,000 acres. This month it has been Southern Oregon’s turn, starting with the Lobster Creek fire near Gold Beach and then the Klamathon fire in northern California. The difference is, those are human-caused fires.
Lightning is a fact of life, and there is no way to prevent it. But human-caused fires are eminently preventable, if people use caution and a large dose of common sense.
The Lobster Creek fire, we now learn, was caused by a group of young climate activists at the Curry County-owned Lobster Creek Youth Campground. The exact cause has still not been released, but county officials say the leaders of Next Generation Climate Justice Action Camp told them they would take responsibility for starting it and had insurance to cover the costs — which now amounts to an estimated $2 million. The fire is essentially over after burning 400 acres of private timberland; no structures were lost and no injuries reported.
The precise cause of the Klamathon fire also remained unclear Monday, but the person reporting it apparently told authorities it started from an intentional fire that got out of control. As of Monday the blaze had burned more than 35,000 acres, destroyed 81 structures and claimed the life of a Hornbrook, California, man. A firefighter was badly burned but is expected to recover.
Meanwhile, more than 1,500 people were evacuated from their homes, and areas just north of the state line were under a level 2 — get set — evacuation notice. Fire officials planned a community meeting at the Ashland Hills Inn Monday evening, although they said the fire posed no immediate danger to the city of Ashland.
Also Monday, a blaze along the Bear Creek Greenway in Medford sent smoke into the air, and a grass fire closed the Exit 55 freeway interchange in Grants Pass. The cause of those fires is unknown, but human activity is likely to be blamed. Last week, fireworks started a 115-acre fire that destroyed a vacant house, four outbuildings and several vehicles in White City.
It’s summer, folks. All it takes is a moment’s carelessness to put lives and property in jeopardy.
Please, please be careful outdoors. Wildfires may still happen, but there’s no point in giving them any help.