Clark County Republican Women hold auditor forum

Clark County auditor candidate Brett Simpson (right) answers questions from Clark County Republican Women’s President Liz Pike (left) at an event held Friday in Vancouver. Photo by Mike Schultz
Clark County auditor candidate Brett Simpson (right) answers questions from Clark County Republican Women’s President Liz Pike (left) at an event held Friday in Vancouver. Photo by Mike Schultz

Auditor Greg Kimsey declines to participate, leaving candidate Brett Simpson to answer questions alone

Leah Anaya
For Clark County Today

Over a month ago, the two candidates in the race for Clark County auditor both agreed to participate in a debate on Friday (Sept. 9) in Vancouver hosted by the Clark County Republican Women (CCRW) organization. Both candidates state a preference to the Republican Party, but one decided he wasn’t willing to participate. 

Incumbent Greg Kimsey, who will have served in the auditor’s role by the end of this term for 24 years, sent an email to CCRW President Liz Pike on Sept. 2 indicating that he would no longer be participating in the debate because he believed it would be “nothing more than a campaign event” for his opponent, Brett Simpson. 

“My hope has always been that my comments would be heard with an ‘open mind,’” Kimsey’s email read. “Recently it has become apparent that the upcoming Clark County Republican Women’s ‘Auditor’s Debate’ between myself and my opponent would not afford me that courtesy.” 

According to Kimsey, Pike, who was set to be the moderator of the event, has endorsed Simpson, “creating an obvious bias.” Similarly, he said, “Of the other four board members of this organization at least three have publicly endorsed my opponent.” 

The CCRW, due to bylaws of its parent organization, Washington Federation of Republican Women, is unable to endorse either candidate in the race due to both being affiliated with the Republican Party. The debate was heavily attended with well over 150 guests, many of whom said during the debate-turned-forum that they hadn’t yet had the opportunity during this election cycle to hear Kimsey speak. Kimsey has indicated he will participate in a League of Women Voters of Clark County candidate forum along with Simpson.

Nevertheless, the event went on, being titled a “forum” rather than a “debate” with the exit of incumbent Kimsey. Simpson answered several questions meant to be asked of both candidates, discussed some of his concerns with the way elections are currently handled, and had ample time to take several questions from the audience. 

Clark County auditor candidate Brett Simpson answers questions from members of the audience at Friday’s event. Photo by Mike Schultz
Clark County auditor candidate Brett Simpson answers questions from members of the audience at Friday’s event. Photo by Mike Schultz

“If I had to give Kimsey a grade for his time in office,” Simpson said, “it would be an F.” According to Simpson, citizens had asked Kimsey to conduct a full forensic audit of the 2020 election (and had even raised the money to pay for it), to which Kimsey declined.  

What Kimsey actually said was, “Get a court order; I’ll obey it.” Kimsey tells people who ask that he has already conducted an audit of the 2020 election. In fact, he said that he conducts audits after every election. 

However, what he is referring to is an internal risk-limiting audit (RLA), which is much different than a full forensic audit. In RLAs, only 600 ballots are selected (compared to approximately 300,000 cast) and run through the same machine on which they were originally counted. Even UC Berkeley has spoken against solely relying on RLAs, which Simpson has talked about on his website.  

In a paper on RLAs, the university’s statistic group has said, “Because a risk-limiting audit relies upon the audit trail, preserving the audit trail complete and intact is crucial. If a jurisdiction’s procedures for protecting the audit trail are adequate in principle, ensuring compliance with those procedures (possibly as part of a comprehensive canvass or a separate compliance audit) can provide strong evidence that the audit trail is trustworthy. If the compliance audit does not generate convincing affirmative evidence that the ballots have not been altered and that no ballots have been added or lost, a risk-limiting audit may be mere theater.” 

“It just didn’t make sense,” Simpson said, “why he wouldn’t go through with the full, real audit. If it turned out to be clean, great! He could have said, ‘Look how great of a job I’m doing!’ And if they turned out to not be clean, he would have been able to fix the issue and then look like the hero. So why wouldn’t he just do it?” 

Simpson and others are suspicious that the mail-in voting is not as clean as the state would have us believe. With chain of custody (meaning having complete knowledge of who has had access to a person’s ballot via paper trail) broken at every turn using mail-in voting, there is really no way to be certain that there’s no fraud or interference with ballots. 

Couple that with the massive potential for meddling and other issues with counting machines, and it’s no wonder several lawsuits were filed to question the accuracy of the election. What citizens have been told is that voting machines can’t be connected to the internet, which is partially true. These machines can connect “to an internal member” via cell modem.  

So no, Simpson explained, the machines don’t connect by hard wire or even by Wi-Fi, but they are still able to connect. The machines also have something called Albert sensors, which authorities say is for our “own security.” These sensors have been found to be easily hacked, most recently in Ferry County, Washington. Counting machines were banned in Europe in the 1970s due to their extreme fraud potential. 

“This is all creating distrust,” Simpson continued. “Our votes are worth so much; they should be treated like it.” 

Although he discussed several other issues currently found within the Clark County auditor’s office, Simpson wasn’t all doom and gloom in his solo forum. He also offered many solutions, saying that there are plenty of ways to clean up the office, even in keeping with restrictive state law. 

“I would like to put cameras by election [drop] boxes and in voting centers,’’ he said. “If elected, I would run the ballots through the counting machines, and then count by hand. If there’s a discrepancy, I would count by hand again. It’s actually faster and cheaper to hand count than to use machines.” 

Ultimately, Simpson would like to see voting return to in-person. “We should be counting on paper, in person with ID, all on one day, with limited exceptions like deployed military, disabled, and elderly. Community has been stripped away from a lot of what we do- so has our involvement in the government. That’s important for reasons other than elections.” 

The auditor is the county’s chief financial officer and is elected to a four-year term. 

Candidate forum questions

Here are the six questions asked of Clark County auditor candidate Brett Simpson at Friday’s event (responses in full video below or click on link question link to go to that specific answer in the video):

  1. Accurate Voter Rolls – What do you perceive to be the biggest challenge for the Clark County Elections office in maintaining accurate voter rolls, including the removal of inactive voters from rolls? How much influence does the county auditor have in this effort and what grade would you give to the current auditor? If elected, what is your action plan to improve the accuracy of voter rolls in Clark County?
  2. Transparency during ballot counting – Does the Clark County Elections Department, under the leadership of the county auditor do all it can to provide transparency to the public on election day and in the days following when races are too close to call as late ballots trickle in?
  3. HR1 Voter Protection Act – What is your opinion of the proposed federal legislation titled Voter Protection Act, known as HR1? Is uniformity needed or should this be managed separately at each state level?
  4. Voting by mail – In 2005, the WA Legislature established Vote by Mail as a permanent option of the election process for all elections, allowing counties to choose. In 2011, with 38 of the 39 counties switched to vote by mail, the Washington Legislature passed a law requiring vote by mail statewide. Are you in favor of voting by mail? What are the pros and cons of voting by mail? Short of changing state law, what would you do, as auditor, to improve the accuracy of vote by mail?
  5. Red ballot drop boxes – There are currently 22 red permanent ballot drop boxes located throughout Clark County. In your opinion, are these secure? Do you believe additional security measures should be put in place at these locations, and if so, what new systems would you initiate as auditor?
  6. General thoughts about how elections are conducted in Clark County – Are there other challenges that must be addressed by the Clark County auditor and staff at the Elections Department to restore the public’s trust in our election system? Please tell us your thoughts and what plans would you implement for improvement?

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