The messy bickering over presidential election results played out elsewhere, not here. Because of steady leadership and well-honed policy, Washington witnessed little of the drama over disputed counts and vote certifications that erupted in swing states from Georgia to Wisconsin.
The political year brought Washington near-record turnout, incendiary partisan campaigning and a high-profile state Senate race that appears to have been swung by a few dozen votes, out of more than 85,000 cast. Yet Washington’s 39 counties appear to have handled election business up to Tuesday’s certification deadline smoothly.
Two elements deserve high praise for this successful work. The first is the system: A succession of elections professionals and lawmakers meticulously constructed mail voting to ensure voter access and election security. This system proved visionary when the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged America. Other states hurried to build in months an absentee voting emphasis that Washington began working on in the 1990s. A preelection Brookings Institute assessment of states’ readiness to help voters cast ballots safely during the pandemic gave Washington the only perfect score.
The other essential is excellent leadership. Secretary of State Kim Wyman, along with a legion of state and county elections officials, earned high praise guiding the state through this election. Wyman’s new voter-roll management technology, VoteWA, withstood a troubled launch and fulfilled the intense demand of serving Washington’s 4.8 million registered voters. During the November election, voters logged into VoteWA 2.3 million times to register, update the voter roll or simply check to see if their ballot had been accepted.
Wyman — on the ballot herself, as a Republican candidate for reelection — conducted the election without a partisan thumb on the scale. Baseless criticism came her way from failed candidates on the left and right. Democratic Secretary of State challenger Gael Tarleton and Republican governor candidate Loren Culp each questioned Wyman’s fairness and integrity. Both were wrong, and voters saw through the partisan rhetoric.
America’s elections infrastructure has endured much in the last four years, from revelations of attempted Russian intrusion in state voting systems to the strains of a pandemic. Neither these, nor intense partisanship, shook Washington’s process.
National elections officials, including Washington elections director Lori Augino, proclaimed 2020’s election “the most secure in American history,” which stands as a triumph for national security. It is equally important to recognize how Washington’s elections infrastructure held up under the internal challenges and to use it to help guide other states on keeping chaos out of the democratic process.