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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Editorials

In Our View: Election security should be nonpartisan issue

The Columbian
Published: August 6, 2019, 6:03am

Today is Election Day in Washington, meaning ballots for the primary must be postmarked or dropped off by 8 p.m. For many local voters, this is a needed reminder; the 2017 primary had 19.9 percent turnout in Clark County, one of the lowest rates in the state.

While we encourage voters to engage in their civic duty, we also take the opportunity to examine the state of elections throughout the country. Our sacred system of choosing leaders is under attack and deserves protection.

Typically, this is not a partisan position. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been playing politics with American elections, endangering a democracy that has stood steadfast for more than 200 years.

McConnell has declined to have the Senate consider a bill that passed the House of Representatives to help secure voting systems in the United States. McConnell is not alone in downplaying the threat from foreign influences upon our elections. H.R. 2722, which would provide $600 million to shore up election security, passed the House with support from only one Republican (Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, voted against it). But as the gatekeeper of the Senate, his reticence is particularly galling.

At the same time, a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee says, “the Russian government directed extensive activity, beginning in at least 2014 and carrying into at least 2017, against U.S. election infrastructure at the state and local level.” The report says the Department of Homeland Security has concluded that election systems in all 50 states were probably probed.

Such sabotage attempts go beyond the dissemination of fake news that Russians long have been accused of, and should be a nonpartisan issue. Instead, Republicans in Washington, D.C., are allowing the very foundation of American exceptionalism to be attacked without retaliation.

In our Washington, Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, long has made election security a priority and provided the necessary attention to meddling attempts. “The extent of it was frightening,” Wyman said of Russian interference in the 2016 election, “but I do not believe any ballot was altered by Russia.”

Washington’s voting systems are not connected to the internet, providing a level of security. The state also has paper ballots that allow for recounts if questions arise, while some states have only electronic systems.

All of this should help motivate all Americans to engage with and protect a system that allows us to choose our government officials. To help with that process, The Columbian has provided recommendations for some of the races on the ballot for today’s election. While these are merely recommendations, we repeat them here while encouraging all voters to fill out and return their ballots:

Vancouver City Council, Position 2: Erik Paulsen is a clear choice and the only viable candidate in the race.

Vancouver City Council, Position 6: Diana Perez and Paul Montague are the standouts in a strong field of seven candidates.

Vancouver school board, Position 1: Dale Rice and Kyle Sproul are the strongest candidates. Caressa Milgrove also deserves consideration.

Vancouver school board, Position 4: We recommend Lisa Messer and Kathy Decker among a field of four strong candidates, including Lindsey Luis and Robert Stewart.

Vancouver school board, Position 5: Tracie Barrows and Chris Lewis are the strongest candidates.