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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Clark County election-security petition clears 1st step

Proposed initiative for ballot gets title after amended by organizer

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 20, 2024, 6:06am

A proposed Clark County initiative that looks to reform the county’s elections process, which was initially rejected by the prosecuting attorney’s office, has cleared the first step to securing a spot on the November ballot.

The prosecuting attorney’s office rejected the proposed initiative when it was first submitted because it appeared it “would restrict or amend state laws regarding election security and voting systems,” according to a Dec. 21 letter from Amanda Migchelbrink, senior deputy prosecuting attorney.

Organizer Rob Anderson said by denying the petition, the prosecutor’s office was potentially suppressing free speech and impacting citizens’ right to petition.

“This is likely to have a chilling effect on future activities, in addition to the present erosion of public trust in your office,” Anderson said in a Jan. 9 letter to Leslie Lopez, chief civil deputy for the county.

The proposed initiative calls on the county to:

  •  Establish chain-of-custody records for every ballot.
  • Require voter registration rolls be updated at least 30 days before ballots are mailed.
  • Equip ballot drop boxes — as well as ballot collection, processing, counting and storage areas — with around-the-clock high-definition security cameras.
  • Require a full forensic audit following each presidential election beginning in 2024.

According to a Jan. 12 press release from Anderson, Lopez indicated the county’s intention to reverse the decision and move forward with the proper evaluation and processing of the initiative a day after Anderson filed a petition in Skamania County Superior Court.

“They got caught, and I’m glad they have decided to follow the charter, and people will see that this is a legal initiative that follows all the requirements,” Anderson said in the release.

Lopez said the prosecutor’s office did not reverse its decision. Because of ongoing litigation, Lopez said she was limited in what she could say about the initiative.

“The ballot title has been forwarded to the auditor’s office, that’s correct,” Lopez said by phone Jan. 12. “But his characterization is incorrect.”

Lopez said Anderson filed an amended initiative, and it was the amended initiative that received the ballot title: Clark County Initiative No. 1 Elections.

The initiative has already attracted the ire of one group named in it, the League of Women Voters. The first page of the petition states that “significant numbers of voters from both political parties and the League of Women Voters have voiced concern over election vulnerabilities.”

Nancy Halvorsen, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Clark County, said the group does not support the initiative.

“The League has confidence in our election system and our election administrators here in Clark County, and we believe that election systems should prioritize equal access for voters,” Halvorsen said Friday.

County Auditor Greg Kimsey said the next step in the initiative process is for the elections office to meet with Anderson, which is scheduled for Monday, to approve the form of the petition. It then goes back to the prosecuting attorney’s office, which may provide an opinion on whether it complies with state law.