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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 21, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 43
Worried about voter fraud? Don't be, state official says
Section One
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Worried about voter fraud? Don't be, state official says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

At the October 19 presidential debate, Donald Trump once again repeated charges that the electoral system 'is rigged,' and he suggested he would not accept the results of the November 8 vote.

Polling shows that Trump's supporters believe his allegations. Forty-one percent of voters - about the same number that supports the Republican nominee - apparently worry that Democrats will steal the election.

According to Washington state election officials, however, those charges are bogus. Dave Ammons, spokesperson for the Washington Secretary of State's office - the agency charged with registering voters and counting ballots, among other things - says the system has so many built-in protections that fraud on a scale large enough to steal the election is almost impossible.

'For all the hype - from the media, from Trump - I can't imagine there could be very much [fraud],' Ammons told SGN in a phone interview. 'We want zero fraud, of course, but if there is any at all it must be a very, very minuscule amount.'

The safeguards start with voter registration, Ammons explained.

'We send a ballot to all registered voters, and they've already gone through the vetting process,' he said. 'We've already established their residence through the DMV [when they get their driver's license or state ID, and can also register to vote].

'We can't know their citizenship status because the DMV doesn't ask that question, but when you register you have to attest that the information you're giving is true. If they lie, then an undocumented person could be deported, or if they have a 'green card' [showing legal residence], they risk losing the opportunity to become a citizen.

'That's why undocumented people rarely, if ever, want to sign official documents,' he added. Since Washington uses mail-in rather than in-person voting, could ballots end up in the wrong hands when people move without notifying the state of their new address? No, Ammons replied, even that situation is accounted for.

'We use a system called ERIC,' he explained. 'It's a multi-state database, and you can tell when people move.'

If the Secretary of State gets more than one ballot from the same voter, 'the first ballot received is the one that counts,' Ammons says. 'For sure we know if people send multiple ballots.'

Even after his office has the ballots in hand, there are additional safeguards to ensure a true count of voters' wishes, Ammons continued.

'For every single ballot, the signature is compared to the one we have on file,' he explained. 'It's very labor intensive. If there's any question [about the veracity of the signature] we try to contact the voter, because signatures can change over time. As you age, your signature might become a little wobbly. Or the voter could have had a stroke. So we contact them to verify.'

Election officials can even tell if registered voters have died, Ammons says.

'You can refer to the Social Security death index,' Ammons explained, 'and many auditors are very diligent about checking newspaper obituaries to see who's died.'

Election officials will have a record number of votes to count in this election, and they are urging voters not to wait until the November 8 deadline to send in their ballots.

According to the Secretary of State's office, the number of registered voters in Washington now stands at 4,207,379, after a record-setting flood of new registrations. More than 100,000 new voters have been added in King County alone.

In addition to a president, Washington voters have the opportunity to select nine statewide officials - from governor on down - a senator, 10 congressmembers, judges, and state legislators, plus they can vote on a number of ballot measures.

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