Washington, Idaho elections can’t be hacked, officials say

Federal officials asking states to step up election security but Washington and Idaho officials believe their systems are secure.

The FBI is warning state officials to boost their election security in light of evidence that hackers targeted related data systems in two states. 

Although Washington and Idaho officials received those warnings, they said the systems to count votes in both states are secure from computer hacking. 

Ballots in both states are counted in the counties, not by a centralized system. 

In Washington, state law says the machines in each county that tabulate ballots can’t be connected to the Internet. In Idaho, ballots are counted in each county, and “16 of them are counted by hand, so it’s kind of hard to hack those,” Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst said.

Earlier this month, Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson talked with secretaries of state about cybersecurity for elections systems. The FBI also warned all states to boost election security after two states shut down online voter registration systems that showed signs of hacking.

The FBI didn’t name the states that were targeted, but it described a “compromise” of one elections board website and “attempted intrusion activities” in another state’s system. State election websites in Illinois and Arizona experienced hack-related shutdowns earlier this summer. In both cases, the parts of the websites affected involved online voter registration. 

“There’s always concern about” ballot security, said Stuart Holmes, election information systems supervisor for the Washington secretary of state’s office. But state laws and federal standards are designed to address those concerns. “To my knowledge, there’s no instance a ‘bad actor’ got into the system,” Holmes said.