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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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In Our View: Local elections secure and conducted fairly

The Columbian

With ballots for the 2023 general election due Tuesday, we remain confident in the security of balloting in Clark County and throughout most of Washington. Any sober analysis of the process leads to the conclusion that local elections are conducted in a safe and fair manner.

Yet unfounded accusations and wacky conspiracy theories continue to chip away at public faith in elections, gradually undermining our representative democracy. It has been said that if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it. In actuality, the problem isn’t that they believe the lie, but that they stop believing the truth. That seed of doubt germinates into a weed that obscures rational thought.

Such is the case in three Washington counties. Grant, Ferry and Lincoln counties are the only ones in the state that do not employ internet security devices known as Albert sensors to monitor network traffic. Under state law, county governments are allowed to determine the appropriate security for their networks.

“Most states have Albert sensors,” Secretary of State Steve Hobbs told The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review. “The Secretary of State’s Office prefers the Albert sensor to alternate security.” Hobbs added that Albert sensors are the standard for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Whether or not three counties in Washington have Albert sensors is not a broad concern for people in Clark County. But prevalent misinformation and conspiracy theories are disconcerting.

Last year, a challenger to Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey — the region’s top elections official — repeated falsehoods that the sensors could be compromised. Kimsey countered by pointing out that the sensors “simply monitor traffic coming into the county servers” to identify “bad actors” accessing the system.

“It pains me to hear allegations of fraud in the elections process without any evidence provided,” Kimsey added. “Anyone who has evidence of fraud should contact law enforcement, the attorney general’s office, the state’s auditor’s office, the secretary of state’s office, the sheriff or the county auditor.”

Indeed, false claims of chicanery in the 2020 election have been full of caterwauling but bereft of proof. In the case of the presidential election, some 60 lawsuits filed on behalf of Donald Trump were rejected by the courts for a lack of evidence — including dozens that came in front of judges appointed by Trump. Audits of ballots in several states failed to demonstrate widespread fraud.

Yet those lies have had an impact. Several Republican-led states have withdrawn from the Electronic Registration Information Center, which allows states to share information about voter registration. It is a tool designed to prevent, for example, a voter from being registered in multiple states.

“Why would people who purport to want more election integrity seek to damage the best tool out there?” David Becker, who helped found the system in 2012, asked The Washington Post earlier this year.

Indeed, states that have pulled out of the consortium have damaged their ability to keep their own voter rolls secure. But adherence to dogma has become more important than acknowledging reality in the current political landscape.

For its part, the Clark County Elections Office works in a transparent manner and has an online video detailing the process for receiving and counting ballots. As Kimsey said last year: “Misinformation about elections undermines people’s confidence in the results of the elections, which is a direct threat to our democracy.”