“Protect and Defend the Constitution,” Former Secretary of State Kim Wyman Leaves for Federal Election Security Post

OLYMPIA – Sitting in the Washington Secretary of State’s office on Capitol Hill on one of her final days at work, Kim Wyman shows off a trio of mantras on her wrist.

Directed by a friend, it reads “remember why you started” to represent some of his turbulent battles as the state’s Chief Electoral Officer. A second, for his battle with cancer, reads: “choose joy.”

“And ‘making waves’ was for the next trip,” Group 3’s Wyman said in a recent interview.

That next trip begins this week, as Wyman and her husband arrive in the other Washington for his new job: as a key election security official in President Joe Biden’s administration.

Once her oath is taken, she will assume the position of Senior Election Security Officer for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

A branch of the US Department of Homeland Security, the CISA is at the heart of efforts to protect voting systems from interference from foreign governments and bad actors in general.

“The real draw, cheesy as it sounds, is to protect and defend the Constitution,” Wyman told the Seattle Times. “It is a job you must do to protect our nation’s electoral system, which is a constitutional pillar of our democracy and our republic.

“And I just want to make sure we get through this really tough road that we’ve been on for a few years,” she added.

Wyman is no stranger to CISA, whose mission is to work with national and local election officials to improve physical security and cybersecurity. Since the 2016 election – which culminated with Russian interference – officials like Wyman have been working with the CISA to strengthen election security.

“She was with us, pushing us from day one, when I walked through the door in 2018,” said Matt Masterson, who served as Election Officer until December 2020.

Pick Wyman, a Republican elected official with extensive local and national election experience, said Masterson is sending “the exact message in this time of partisanship.”

But the challenges only get worse, said Masterson, now a non-resident policy researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory at Stanford University. Election officials are struggling to counter the rise of misinformation and disinformation, which is spreading quickly and far across social media platforms.

Meanwhile, concerted efforts to undermine election faith through baseless conspiracy theories – including by some Republicans and former President Donald Trump – present complex challenges.

Along with the continued need for electoral security, Masterson said, election officials and the CISA must now find ways to communicate and build voter confidence to demonstrate that elections are primarily free from fraud.

“It’s a harder challenge to be honest,” Masterson said.

The Washington Secretary of State oversees various matters other than elections.

It oversees the registration of corporations and nonprofit organizations, as well as the state archives and the state library. The incumbent is also on the second line – behind the lieutenant governor of Washington – to succeed the governor.

One of Wyman’s accomplishments is an update to the agency’s filing system for businesses and nonprofits, which until a few years ago still required people to file documents at Olympia.

She is also pleased with her nearly decade-long quest to construct a new building for the State Archives and Libraries, a project funded and now in the design phase: “I am disappointed that I cannot complete the project. this project. “

But since 2016, elections have become an increasingly dominant role. Wyman worked to create an Election Cyber ​​Security Operations Center, which assisted local election officials in Washington’s 39 counties.

Perhaps the most important and difficult task has been the design and implementation of VoteWA, a new voter management database that also allows election officers to administer the relatively new state law. on same-day voter registration.

Although it experienced a bumpy rollout in early 2019 – including some criticism from county election officials – the system ultimately performed well in that year’s election and performed well in the elections. 2020 elections.

“VoteWA in every way is something I’m proud of, because I think it was a game-changer that we needed at all levels… and it worked well,” she said.

She decided to take the job after CISA contacted her a few months ago, said Wyman, who added that she did not know the agency’s new director, Jen Easterly.

Wyman now wants to use his new role to continue helping states and local officials work with cybersecurity capabilities to protect voting systems.

“I’m speaking as secretary of state, but I’m thinking of the clerk in the middle of Iowa which has 3,000 voters, and they do other work, they issue registered documents or license tabs or something from the. like, ”she said. “How do they have the time to find out what threats are coming from around the world or from the country? “

Wyman’s departure also leaves Republicans without a single statewide elected official on the west coast of the Americas.

Earlier this month, Governor Jay Inslee appointed State Senator Steve Hobbs, a moderate Democrat and Lieutenant Colonel in the Washington National Guard, to serve temporarily as Secretary of State. Hobbs was sworn in on Monday.

Hobbs – who has no experience overseeing elections – has said he will run for office next year, the winner of which will then serve the remainder of Wyman’s term.

Wyman praised Hobbs’ selection, but said: “I hope we see people with electoral experience come into the race.”

“I think there are some very skilled county auditors and election officials who could certainly do the job well and are ready to do it,” she said.

Wyman has served in office long enough to see the moderate wing of the GOP ebb back to Washington and see the rise of people like Loren Culp, the party’s unsuccessful candidate for governor last year.

After losing that race, Culp sued Wyman with allegations of widespread voter fraud irregularities. But the lawsuit was withdrawn after his lawyer was threatened with legal penalties for making unfounded claims.

Wyman says he joined the party decades ago because of former President Ronald Reagan and the principles of strong national defense, limited government, low taxes and the rule of law.

Her new role is a non-partisan, Hatch Act-subject job, which limits partisan implications – and Wyman said she looks forward to that dynamic as well.

In the meantime, Wyman said she hoped the Republican Party could “get back to principles, rather than just focusing on individuals.”

“You know, Lincoln’s party and Reagan’s party are about something much bigger than any of us,” Wyman added. “But I hope the party can return to the principles on which it was founded.”

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