Some Republicans in Washington state cast a wary eye on an election security device

In northeast Washington state, a remote region nestled against the Canadian border, the politics lean conservative and wariness of government runs high.

Earlier this year, a Republican-led county commission there made a decision that rippled across Washington — triggering alarm at the secretary of state’s office, and now among cybersecurity experts who have worked for the past six years to shore up the security of America’s voting systems.

It happened on Valentine’s Day during the regular weekly meeting of the three-member commission in Ferry County, where Donald Trump received more than 63% of the vote in the 2020 election.

After an agenda that included an update on the county fair and a discussion about a local water and sewer district, the commissioners took up a proposal to disconnect a recently installed cybersecurity device from the county’s computer network.

The device, known as an Albert sensor, was designed to alert local governments to potential hacking attempts against their networks. More than 900 Albert sensors have been deployed across the country, primarily to states and counties, and they have been a key component of the federal government’s cybersecurity response following Russian election interference around the 2016 election.

But the commissioners in Ferry County had come to the conclusion that the sensor, which had been provided by the state at no cost, was more of a liability than an asset.

“Let’s get rid of it,” Commissioner Nathan Davis said before making his motion to remove the device.

The vote in support of the motion was unanimous.

“Bye bye, Albert sensor,” one of the commissioners quipped.

Another county in Washington state also disconnected its sensor, and a third decided not to install one. It’s an isolated trend in Washington at this point, but one that represents a stark example of how Republican mistrust in elections and government systems more broadly threatens to dismantle bipartisan progress made over the past decade to improve election security.

During the Ferry County meeting, Commissioner Davis quoted from a memo that circulated among Washington state Republicans. That memo,…