New Washington Secretary of State Creating Plan to Counter Disinformation Around Elections

The new Washington secretary of state, Steven Hobbs, was sworn in Monday and plans to create a way to counter false and inaccurate information surrounding elections, the Associated Press reported.

During his time in office, Hobbs wants to create a plan to respond to disinformation and misinformation from elections and build upon previous cyber security efforts in the state.

"The last thing we need is to have our democracy eroded by people believing that their election system is not secure when it is secure," he said

Hobbs is Washington's 16th secretary of state. He's the first person of color to head the office and the first Democrat to hold the position 56 years.

Hobbs, who is of Japanese descent, left his Senate seat representing the 44th legislative district to replace Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the fifth consecutive GOP Washington secretary of state dating back to 1965.

Wyman is taking an election security job in Joe Biden's administration. 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.

Hobbs will serve until the general election in November 2022. The results will determine who will serve the remaining two years of Wyman's four-year term. He said he plans on running during that election.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Steve Hobbs, Washington Secretary of State
Steve Hobbs is the first Democrat to serve as Washington's Secretary of State in more than 50 years. Above, Hobbs poses in front of photos of his predecessors after getting sworn in at the Capitol in Olympia on November 22, 2021. Ted S. Warren/AP Photo

Hobbs was sworn in by state Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu in the state reception room at the state Capitol, after which he thanked Wyman in his speech, saying that she understood and dealt with the threats of cyber and information warfare in the elections sphere.

"I'm going to build upon that," he said. "And I'm glad that we'll have a partner in Washington, D.C. to build upon that."

The last Democratic secretary of state in Washington was Vic Meyers, who was elected in 1956 and served two terms. Meyers was denied a third term in 1964 when he was defeated by Republican Lud Kramer.

Earlier this month, Democratic Governor Jay Inslee announced that Hobbs—considered a centrist in the Senate Democratic caucus—was his pick. 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.

Hobbs grew up in Snohomish County and has represented a portion of that county in the Senate since 2007. He served for decades in the U.S. Army, serving in Iraq and Kosovo, and currently serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Washington State National Guard.

An appointment process to replace Hobbs in the Senate will take place in Snohomish County, and Democratic Representative John Lovick has already said he is seeking the appointment. Three names will be ultimately be put forth by Snohomish County Democrats, and the Snohomish County Council will choose who will serve the remainder of Hobbs' term through November 2022.

In addition to being the state's chief elections officer, the secretary of state also serves as chief corporations officer and supervisor of the state archives and state library.

Steve Hobbs, Washington Secretary of State
Steve Hobbs is the first person of color to become Washington's Secretary of State. Above, Hobbs (L) is sworn into office by state Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu (R) on November 22, 2021, at the state Capitol in Olympia as his wife, Pam (C) looks on. Ted S. Warren/AP Photo