Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said his office received several reports in the last week about a group canvassing homes throughout the county.
Kimsey wants voters to be aware the canvassing effort is being conducted by local volunteers from the Washington Voter Research Project, which is not affiliated with Clark County or the Elections Office.
Kimsey said his office does not go door-to-door to gather voter information and does not have any jurisdiction to authorize groups to do so.
“I understand this kind of canvassing can be concerning to voters,” Kimsey said. “Voters are under no obligation to provide information to someone who comes to their door asking about their voter registration information.”
Door-to-door canvassing has been reported in other counties since February with county auditors in Clallam and Thurston counties issuing similar statements.
The Washington Voter Research Project is headed by Thurston County conservative activist Glen Morgan, the former director of the conservative think tank Freedom Foundation.
The Voters Research Project launched a statewide polling effort “to ensure that our votes are not just ‘counted,’ but also to ensure they are not ‘cancelled’ by fraud, incompetence, or other problems which can often occur in any complex government run, bureaucratic system,” according to its website, wavoterresearch.org.
“If our elections can’t be trusted, if the process isn’t transparent, and if the election process isn’t beyond reproach, then every aspect of a representative government begins to fail,” the site says.
Kimsey said while door-to-door canvassing isn’t unheard of, he said he hasn’t seen one conducted at this scale.
“They’ve been communicating with myself and our office for a few months, but prior to that, I wasn’t aware of them. They obtained the voter registration list, which is public information,” Kimsey said.
Kimsey noted the group does provide information back to the Elections Office.
“We’re very constrained by law about what we can and can’t do with information from a third party,” Kimsey said. “The most common situation is where someone at a house was registered to vote, they moved away and the people still living at that house have continued to receive ballots for the person who moved away.”
However, information about a voter coming through a third party, like the Voter Research Project, cannot be used to change a voter’s status. Kimsey said in those cases, Elections will send a letter to the residence or voter to confirm whether that person has moved jurisdictions or out of state.
“There’s lots of people who are currently residing (elsewhere) and consider themselves residents of Clark County and intend to return to Clark County and vote here,” he said. “We will mail a letter to the address and say, ‘If this person doesn’t live here anymore, you can mark that person’s ballot as undeliverable or the person no longer lives here and return it to us through the post office.’ If we get something as undeliverable from the post office, we can change a voter’s status to inactive.”
The canvassing project has raised some concerns among residents. A post on Facebook over the weekend questioned how the information gathered by the volunteers will be used.
“How are you protecting the personal information some people have agreed to share with you? What personal theory are you hoping this unscientific, nonstandardized data-gathering will prove? That state and local elections are fraught with corruption? Fill us in, please,” the comment read.
Canvassing for and with voter information is legal under Washington law. While certain voter registration information — such as name, address, whether you voted in an election — is public record, what information a voter chooses to disclose is up to them.
“It is perfectly within your right to refuse to answer any questions from someone you do not know and/or trust,” Kimsey said.
Kimsey also said anyone claiming to know which candidates or issues individuals voted for is not telling the truth. He said all ballots are separated from any identifying information before being counted and even elections officials do not know how someone voted, let alone third parties.
A process to challenge voter registrations already exists, Kimsey added. He said any registered voter can challenge another’s voter registration if they believe the voter does not meet the requirements to be a registered voter or their voter registration information is not correct.
To update your voter registration record, go online to https://voter.votewa.gov or call the Elections Office at 564-397-2345.