Packed into the Payne Lounge at Western Washington University, Secretary of State Steve Hobbs and a trove of political science and cybersecurity students chatted about issues with misinformation in elections, engagement of young voters and opportunities for work in government.
During his Monday, April 24 visit, Hobbs discussed his office’s duties: managing information archives and state and local elections, and working with state and local governments.
Hobbs, who also visited Whatcom Community College on Monday, said the state not only has to encourage people to vote, but also needs to educate people on how the election system functions in Washington, and nationwide.
“Because of misinformation that’s happening with our elections, we have to redo how we put out the word about elections on the state level and at the county level,” Hobbs said. “In the past, it’s all been about getting out to vote. We got to do more than that.”
Hobbs said education includes explaining how ballot counting systems work and how registration trackers like ERIC keep people from voting twice, or account for an individual who has died. People are also welcome to watch ballot counting in local auditors’ offices and should have open conversations.
“When someone says something crazy, correct them,” he told students.
He also discussed the prevalence of misinformation from foreign adversaries. Hobbs said since he took office in November 2021, he’s doubled his cybersecurity force from four staff to eight, which he said still isn’t enough. The force was initially created after the National Guard’s cyber unit found Russian software embedded in systems, waiting to mine information when the time was right.
Hobbs and the students explored the lack of civic engagement of the younger generation. He said his office is looking to have a booth at Emerald City Comic Con to encourage young people to vote, and is developing an app that allows players to make civic decisions, see the results and learn about governmental processes.
Hobbs encouraged the students interested in working in government to volunteer on local campaigns, go door-knocking and engage in the civic process.
“If you’re willing to knock on doors, you can get hired,” he joked.
He also urged students to apply for internships and future jobs with the Secretary of State.