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Originally published Monday, May 7, 2012 at 3:12 PM

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State must continue efforts to make elections accessible, efficient and secure

Washington state must continue to its leading role in developing and using cutting-edge election technologies while protecting the security of voters' ballots, writes former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro.

Special to The Times

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HAVING served as Washington's chief elections official for 20 years, I am impressed by those advocating our state move to online voting.

While there still are security issues to resolve before we implement true online voting, I strongly encourage more elections officials to embrace available technologies that utilize the power of the Internet to make our elections more accessible and efficient, without compromising the security of a voter's ballot.

When I travel the country, I am proud of how far ahead Washington state is in elections. We were among the first states in the nation to implement punch-card and later optical-scan systems to replace problematic paper ballots and lever machines.

We led the fight for the National Voter Registration Act, the so-called "Motor Voter" law passed by Congress in 1993 as a way to maximize voter participation, without compromising security. And, as only the second state to vote 100 percent by mail, we continue to make voting accessible and convenient, while keeping the proper security measures in place to ensure our elections are conducted securely and fairly.

Online voting is a great goal to strive for, but most technology experts agree it is years away from coming to fruition. Until we get there, there are many proven technologies that can be used to improve elections and make voting more accessible without compromising the security and sanctity of our electoral process.

A strong democracy only works when voters are fully informed regarding the important choices they are making and voting is accessible to all.

A company based here in Seattle has become the national leader in this arena. Democracy Live implemented the first electronic ballot-delivery system in the nation for overseas voters in 2009.

Since then, members of our armed forces have utilized this system to securely access their voter-specific electronic absentee ballot from more than 60 countries.

Kitsap County has provided a similar technology for voters with disabilities. Voters with disabilities can securely access their absentee ballot online, use their computer's built-in accessibility tools to independently mark their ballot, and submit the ballot like a traditional absentee ballot. This has increased participation among Kitsap County's disabled voters by 200 percent while keeping important security measures in place.

Washington state has a proud history of leading our nation in elections and we should continue developing and deploying cutting-edge election technologies, while ensuring that the proper security measures are in place to keep our elections safe and secure.

Ralph Munro served as Washington secretary of state from 1981 to 2001. He has provided strategic counsel to Democracy Live since retiring as secretary of state.

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