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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Clark County election security petition pushes for 27,702 signatures; WinCo says not at our stores

27,702 signatures required by May 25 to be on November ballot

By Dylan Jefferies, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 14, 2024, 6:09am

Perhaps you have seen signs across Clark County urging, “Save your vote,” or noticed people with clipboards outside local businesses.

They are part of a signature-gathering campaign to secure a spot on the November ballot for a proposed initiative that looks to reform Clark County’s elections process — something clean-government advocates say is unnecessary.

Nonetheless, the campaign persists — at times, aggressively — as the May 25 deadline for gathering the required 27,702 signatures nears.

In April, WinCo Foods in Brush Prairie served Rob Anderson, the initiative’s author, and the Restore Election Confidence campaign a temporary restraining order after signature gatherers were repeatedly asked to vacate the store’s premises. The papers filed in Clark County Superior Court describe a signature gatherer who “began appearing at the WinCo Brush Prairie Store to harass and bother WinCo’s customers.”

Anderson responded with a news release stating: “I have consistently advised volunteers to avoid WinCo Foods, and I was cooperative upon being served.”

Even after curtailing signature gathering at grocery stores, “several thousand signatures have been collected to date,” Anderson said. An exact count is not available due to the “decentralized approach” of the signature gathering process, he said.

Allegations disputed

Anderson said the initiative is a nonpartisan attempt to improve election integrity and increase voter turnout.

Anderson claims there is “a highly partisan effort to silence and disregard valid concerns.” He accused Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey of dismissing — and even obstructing — the initiative. (The county auditor oversees the elections office.)

“The people have a right to propose direct-governing or initiative-based actions, yet our efforts have revealed how some are willing to break the law, take action into their own hands, and go against stated policy, if necessary, to stop the people from offering common-sense solutions to an obvious problem and just smear their attempts with platitudes that everything is perfect and there’s no room for improvement,” Anderson said.

The League of Women Voters of Clark County, a nonpartisan organization that provides education on the political process, took issue with the initiative after learning the group is named in its first page. The initiative states: “Significant numbers of voters from both political parties and the League of Women Voters have voiced concern over election vulnerabilities.”

“The League of Women Voters of Clark County was never contacted about this initiative and is perplexed by its reference to our agreeing with its premise,” according to a statement from the organization’s Clark County board. “Elections are conducted differently in different states, and we can speak only to how they are run in Clark County. We have a corps of 40 League election observers and are present to watch ballot processing in every local election. We have observed no discrepancies at all. The League is confident about the integrity and accuracy of elections in Clark County.”

Proposed initiative

The proposed initiative calls on the county to enact multiple changes to its elections process, such as establishing chain-of-custody records for every ballot; requiring voter registration rolls be updated at least 30 days before ballots are mailed; equipping ballot drop boxes — as well as ballot collection, processing, counting and storage areas — with around-the-clock high-definition security cameras; and requiring a full forensic audit following each presidential election beginning in 2024.

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“We are genuinely concerned about the decade-long decline in voter participation, which reached a historic low in the last General Election (2023),” Anderson said in an email. “The (Restore Election Confidence) initiative only aims to improve our election procedures so all voters have increased confidence to participate.”

Kimsey said the initiative implies the elections office does not comply with all applicable federal and state laws, which is untrue.

Kimsey added the initiative appears to be a result of the belief that election results do not accurately reflect voters’ decisions — a belief that took hold at the national, state and local level after the 2020 election, he said.

“This proposed initiative inaccurately communicates to voters that Clark County’s elections administration process is flawed and consequently may reduce voters’ confidence in the integrity of the elections administration process,” Kimsey said.

Some of the changes proposed would be difficult and expensive to implement, Kimsey said. And others, such as requiring elections employees to work until 11:59 p.m. on Election Day, could increase the likelihood of errors, he said.

“Election administrators understand the importance of issuing meaningful election results as quickly as possible, but also understand that the integrity of the process and the accuracy of election results is more important,” Kimsey said. “If working until 11:59 p.m. on Election Day resulted in more meaningful results faster while maintaining the integrity of the process, we would have been doing that for many years.”

Kimsey said he would not let his concerns about the initiative keep him from doing his job. After the May 25 deadline, the elections office will verify the number of signatures on the petition, and, if enough valid signatures have been submitted, place the proposal on the ballot for the next general election, Kimsey said.

If voters approve the initiative in November, it calls for all the measures to be in place by the next election.

If the Clark County Council enacts the proposal without change or amendment no less than 60 days prior to the 2024 general election, the proposal would be removed from the ballot. However, if not enough valid signatures are submitted, then no further action will be taken by the elections office.

Kimsey said anyone with concerns or questions regarding the elections administration process is encouraged to contact him at 564-397-2078 or Greg.Kimsey@clark.wa.gov.

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