Monday, September 21, 2020
Sept. 21, 2020

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Election 2020: Error sends Clark County filing numbers on roller-coaster ride

Statewide online form lacked spot for declaration of party by PCO candidates

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Day three of filing week at the Clark County Elections Office included an oddity: The number of candidates listed as having filed for public office, a figure that would usually grow throughout the week, dropped by half.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, 228 people had filed candidacies to appear on the Aug. 4 primary election ballot, according to the online database updated by elections office staff. As of late Wednesday morning, just 115 candidates appeared on the county’s roster.

But by 5 p.m. Wednesday, 218 people had filed with Clark County to run for public office. They’ll appear on the county’s primary ballots in August.

The precipitous drop earlier had been due to a statewide mistake in the online filing system for party precinct committee officers, said Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey. The online form inadvertently lacked a party declaration section.

Precinct committee officers are charged with leading a political party’s efforts in their neighborhoods, and thus must attest that they belong to the party they wish to represent.

The omission meant that everyone who filed to serve as a party precinct officer before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday had their candidacies rejected by the VoteWA database. The mistake impacted a lot of candidates — Clark County alone has 314 party precincts, each of which needs both a Democratic and a Republican officer. Would-be precinct officers make up the majority of people filing right now.

“Individuals who filed online Monday and Tuesday to run for precinct committee officer (PCO) have been sent a message asking them to refile their candidacies by 4 p.m. Friday, May 15,” Lori Augino, the state’s director of elections, wrote in an email to each of the state’s county elections offices.

“This change only applies to candidates for the office of precinct committee officer. No other offices are affected,” Augino continued. “We apologize for this inconvenience.”

Clark County’s filing week began at 9 a.m. Monday and will conclude at 5 p.m. Friday.

Formally declaring a campaign with the county’s elections office is a requirement for all candidates, whether they’re seeking an office at the federal, state, county or precinct level.

Vick draws opponent

Outside of the party precinct snafu, the main development to come out of Wednesday was a previously unannounced try for 18th District state representative. Kassandra Bessert is running as a Democrat to represent the district, which encompasses parts of north and east Clark County. She’s looking to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Brandon Vick.

In a media release Wednesday, Bessert said she was a lifelong Battle Ground resident.

“Government can be an effective tool. It’s hard to forget that government inaction made the recovery worse for outlying communities in Clark County during the recession. Neighbors lost jobs, homes, and health while our representatives just kept voting ‘No,’ ” Bessert said in the press release. “We have a national health crisis driving an economic disaster. Local recovery depends on aggressively addressing both.”

Bessert joins fellow 18th District Democrat Donna Sinclair, who is running against the district’s other incumbent representative, Republican Larry Hoff.

Wednesday also saw two more candidates file in Washington’s 20th Legislative District, which overlaps with the northernmost tip of Clark County. Democrat Will Rollet of Castle Rock will challenge Republican Rep. Ed Orcutt for his position 2 seat. Kurtis Engle of Centralia, who declared no party preference, has thrown his hat into the four-way race for the open position 1 seat held by retiring Rep. Richard DeBolt, a Republican.

To view the full roster of candidates who have declared campaigns with the Clark County auditor’s office, visit clark.wa.gov/elections/candidates and click the link “List of Candidates that have Filed for Office.”

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