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News / Politics / Election

Clark County certifies its 2016 election results

Officials say 210,760 valid ballots were cast

By Jake Thomas, Columbian political reporter
Published: November 29, 2016, 8:06pm

The Clark County Canvassing Board, which oversees elections, has certified the final count of the 210,760 valid ballots the county received in the Nov. 8 general election.

The final count has Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton narrowly winning Clark County with 92,757 votes, just slightly more than the 92,441 votes Republican Donald Trump received.

The final count for the close race for the District 3 position for Clark County council has Republican John Blom cementing his victory over Democrat Tanisha Harris with 22,066 votes to her 21,056.

In an election year marked by increased concerns over voter fraud, county election workers rejected more ballots this year than in 2012. The most common reason for rejecting ballots was because the signature on the affidavit envelope did not match the voter’s signature on file. If a signature doesn’t match, the voter is contacted and given a chance to respond. But according to county numbers, 1,609 ballots were still rejected because of unmatching signatures. In 2012, 803 ballots out of 193,502 counted ballots were rejected because of unmatching signatures.

“It is a lot,” said Cathie Garber, Clark County elections supervisor. “They’re not expecting us to be verifying every single signature.”

Of the 1,609 rejected ballots, Garber said that 18 weren’t counted because of evidence that someone other than the registered voter signed the ballots. Another 18 were rejected because someone attempted to vote more than once, she said, and 16 ballots were rejected because someone admitted to signing someone else’s ballot.

The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office sent letters to the addresses where the fishy ballots originated, and Garber said these voters have been put on a list to monitor in future. If similar problems arise in the future they’ll be referred to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

During the year’s final meeting of the canvassing board, Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey (who is a member of the board along with county council Chair Marc Boldt and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jane Vetto) said that a father called and “kind of confessed” to signing his daughter’s ballot. He said another person was brought to tears after receiving a letter from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office raising suspicions about a fraudulently cast ballot.

“Now I feel bad,” responded Vetto.

But Kimsey replied, “Fantastic. Congratulations. That’s what we want.”

There were four races in the county for which elections staff were required to tally the names of people written in for the office.

The names of write-ins aren’t normally recorded. But under state law there are two circumstances that change that. If a candidate declares a write-in campaign their votes are recorded. County elections offices also are required to record the names written in for an office if the total number of write-ins and undervotes (when voters leave the race blank) is equal to or greater than the margin between the winning and losing candidate in the race.

For instance, in the race between Blom and Harris, there were 4,741 undervotes, meaning elections staff had to record the names of the 157 write-ins. David Madore, who lost his re-election bid for the position in the primary, received the most write-in votes with 47.

The race for Position 2 state representative in the 49th Legislative District drew 1,593 write-ins and 10,843 undervotes. Carolyn Crain, a Republican who finished third in the top-two August primary for the position behind Democrats Monica Stonier and Alishia Topper, received the most at write-ins at 218. The race for Position 1 state representative in the 17th Legislative District had 5,314 undervotes and drew 172 write-ins. Stonier received eight write-in votes in the race.

The District 2 position on the Clark County Public Utility Commission saw 46,370 undervotes and 1,076 write-ins. According to the elections office, 57 voters wrote in “fictional characters,” and Donna Roberge, a former commissioner of the Port of Camas-Washougal who ran for the position and lost in the primary, received 20 votes.

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Columbian political reporter