SPOKANE, Wash. - With the 2016 election in the books, election officials across the country and in Washington State are constantly evaluating what went right and what didn't.
Washington's Secretary of State, Kim Wyman, said a lot went right for the Evergreen State. She says, with 100 percent confidence, that Washington's election results in 2016 accurately reflect the voter’s wishes, but also that it's not for lack of effort on the part of foreign powers.
"Russia scanned our system for the 2016 election," Wyman told KHQ Friday morning. "We were one of 21 states that were able to detect it first, but they scanned all 50 states."
She went on, "Look, there are bad actors trying to get into your device all the time. It's a constant effort to be ahead of the bad actors, and that's true for the elections offices. We have many people every day trying to get in to our system. And to combat it, we approach it in a comprehensive way. County auditors across the state are working with my office to beef up cyber security defenses. We have a new voter registration system that protects your data, we have new firewalls around our system and this is at both the county and state levels. We have monitoring and detection software that takes data from thousands of sources and is looking for trends."
Wyman said she feels confident that the results released by the elections office will be accurate, but a big concern leading up to the election is what she called "influence campaigns." These campaigns can come in a variety of forms, but most often include social media.
Wyman said foreign agents, some from Russia, some from China, were on America's social media accounts, trying to inflame things. She said she's seen cases where these agents would schedule a Black Lives Matter rally across the street from a Pro-Law Enforcement rally, with no real goal in mind, other than to sow the seeds of discord. If the situation devolved into violence, all the better for their purposes.
She also said she's seen bots, that are centered in Russia or China falsely boosting story trends to make them seem more important than they are, or even, in some cases, to boost a completely false story. She says combating the influence campaigns is very difficult, and urges everyone to do their research if they read a news story that is not coming from a trusted source.