By COLLEEN LONG, RACHEL LA CORTE and ERIC TUCKER
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican secretary of state who challenged former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud in 2020 will lead the Biden administration’s effort to protect future elections.
Kim Wyman, 59, has led elections in Washington state for years, and she was reelected to a third term in November — the lone statewide-elected Republican on the West Coast. She will serve as the election security lead for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the agency responsible for safeguarding U.S. elections, the agency announced Tuesday.
“As I assume this new role, I remain committed to protecting the integrity of our elections and working closely with local and state elections officials nationwide to bolster this foundational pillar of our democracy,” Wyman said in a statement.
She will serve as the government’s top liaison to the states, a job that was high profile before 2020, and will only be more so following Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election he lost to Joe Biden, and the embracing of those false claims by other members of the GOP.
Trump and his allies made — and still make — false assertions that there was rampant election fraud in 2020, despite evidence to the contrary. Former Attorney General William Barr told AP there was no sign of widespread fraud. As Trump railed over the election, leaders of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency stated publicly that it was the safest election in history. One was fired by Trump shortly after.
Scores of lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies over claims of possible election fraud were dismissed by the courts, including by Trump-appointed federal judges.
Still, millions of Americans believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. That misinformation prompted thousands to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a violent but failed effort to stop the certification of Biden’s win.
Homeland Security officials said Wyman will help lead the next round of elections in a “non-partisan manner to ensure the security and resilience of our election infrastructure.”
“Kim’s reputation is second to none and I am personally thrilled to have her lead CISA’s election security efforts,” CISA director Jen Easterly said in a statement. “Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of our democracy; Kim and I share a common view that ensuring the security of our elections must be a non-partisan effort.”
Wyman’s resignation, effective Nov. 19, means that Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee can appoint a temporary successor, who would serve until the general election in November 2022, which will determine who will serve the remainder of Wyman’s four-year term.
Unlike vacancies in other partisan offices, like the Legislature or county offices, the governor is not limited to appointing someone from a specific political party, which means that Republicans could lose their hold on the office for the first time in more than 50 years.
When asked about the possibility he could appoint someone from the GOP to the position, Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee said via email that they were “not ruling anything out.”
“It is possible,” she wrote.
The next regular election for secretary of state will be in November 2024.
In a message posted to Twitter Tuesday, Wyman said the hardest part of the decision was leaving her post before the conclusion of her term.
“However, the threats to our country’s elections system continue each day and they must be met with a combined effort by IT and cybersecurity experts alongside election professionals at the local, state, and federal level,” she wrote.
Last October, Wyman published the book “Elections 2020: Controlling Chaos: How Foreign Interference, a Global Pandemic, and Political Polarization Threaten U.S. Democracy.”
She was a constant presence on national networks in the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, extolling the safety and security of the vote-by-mail system in her state, a process in place there for years. She disputed Trump’s claims that mail-in voting was fraudulent.
“If the president wants to rant and rave about how insecure vote by mail is or how our elections are going to be rigged, then I’m going to talk about the security measures that Washington state put in place,” she told AP in September 2020. “And I’m going to spend my time talking about the facts, and no, I’m not going to get mired down in some sort of political debate and posturing.”
Before the state’s 12 members of the Electoral College cast their votes for Biden in Olympia, Washington, in December, Wyman got emotional while talking to them about the vote they were about to take.
“While some people continue to question the outcome of this election, average citizens from all walks of life will step up today to exercise their responsibility to perform their constitutional duty to the best of their ability,” she said. “This is an important ceremony. This is the American way of governance. This is democracy in action.”
Wyman has never shied away from the fact that she’s a Republican, but has said she believes she’s approached the job in a nonpartisan way.
“It’s how you do the work every day, and my job is to inspire confidence in every voter no matter if they are a staunch Democrat or a hardcore Republican,” she said last year.
La Corte reported from Olympia, Washington.
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