What went right in county elections, what could change and write-ins

The election is over and Clark County has certified its results earlier this week. With the heavy-lifting finished, the county’s election officials met with the Election Advisory Committee on Thursday to discuss what went well and what might change in future elections.

Cathie Garber, Clark County elections supervisor, told the committee that the county replaced over 8,000 ballots that voters reported as lost or damaged and were able to account for each and every one of them. She also mentioned how election workers conducted an audit recommended by the Washington secretary of state where workers hand-counted 600 ballots to ensure the results matched up with the results from machine counts. The audit revealed that every ballot matched she said.

During the meeting, Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey outlined a package of reforms Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman has proposed to state legislators that includes a $9.5 million modernization of the state’s election system among other measures.

Kimsey said one issue that will likely come up is the state coming into compliance with the REAL ID Act, a 2005 federal law that requires states to add security enhancements to their driver’s licenses and ID cards and for people applying for them to prove they’re in the country legally.

Kimsey said that he supports coming into compliance with the REAL ID Act. While he said there is “no evidence” of widespread voting by undocumented immigrants he said it would be helpful if election officials could proactively say there is a mechanism in place to prevent it from happening.

He also expected there to be no changes to state law in response to mailers from GOPAC education Fund. During the last election, the PAC used public records to determine which voters had and hadn’t turned in their ballots. The PAC then sent mailers to voters telling them which of their neighbors hadn’t voted, a move that many complained was intrusive.

Kimsey said that having voter information publicly available was a “fundamental check and balance” on the election process. He also said that GOPAC could argue that its activities were “protected speech” if legislation targeting its tactics were to be introduced.

“It’s just not going to happen,” said Kimsey.

Another issue that Kimsey said might come up during the legislative session are the requirements that dictate when election offices have to count up and record write-in votes. Under state law, there are two situations where election workers have to record write-in votes. The first is if a candidate has declared a write-in campaign. The second is if the total number of write-ins and undervotes (when voters leave the line for the race blank) is equal to or greater than the margin between the winning and losing candidate in the race.

In the last election, there were four races in Clark County that met that threshold.

“It’s a fair amount of work and to no point; I see no value in this,” said Kimsey of recording write-ins.

The Columbian obtained the list of write-ins so you can make the call for yourself. (FYI, Clark County lumps votes like “Mickey Mouse” and “Donald Duck” into the category of “fictional characters.”)

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