Both sides are seeking to help votes with signature issues make sure their ballot is counted as the race continues to tighten
CLARK COUNTY — The race for Clark County chair tightened further on Monday as the elections office released new numbers, including some challenged ballots that have had signature issues cured.
According to the Clark County Auditor’s office, there were around 2,200 ballots that either had missing signatures, or had signatures that didn’t match with what was on file.
County Chair candidate Eileen Quiring, who now leads by 1,007 votes over challenger Eric Holt, said they still had a list of nearly 2,000 names as of this morning.
“It’s almost two thousand people whose votes aren’t being counted, and I think that’s sad,” says Quiring, “because people went to the trouble of voting, and because either they didn’t sign the back of the envelope, maybe because they thought they didn’t need to — but you really do have to, or maybe that signature didn’t really match what their registration card said.”
While the vote gap between Quiring and Holt narrowed again on Monday, the percentage for each candidate barely budged. Under state law, a race that is within 2,000 votes AND half of one percent would trigger an automatic machine recount. Quiring currently holds a .54 percent lead over Holt.
According to the county elections office, the average percentage of challenged ballots that were ultimately “cured” over the previous four major elections was 58 percent. That number includes only ballots with signatures that were disputed, and doesn’t count ballots with signatures that are missing entirely.
Under Washington state law, the list of challenged ballots is public information. Both races have obtained those lists, and have teams of people reaching out to those voters to inform them of what needs to be done to have their ballot counted.
The elections division also sends a letter to those voters, and then calls any that haven’t responded within three days of the vote being certified. This year that will happen on Tue., Nov. 27.
“If Holt’s side is out there trying to get their numbers up, then if Eileen’s supporters aren’t doing the same thing then obviously the democratic process doesn’t work,” says Clark County GOP Chair David Gellatly.
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey has gone on record saying he’s not a fan of the challenged ballot data being public, due to the risk that campaigns could hunt for votes.
Holt has not responded to ClarkCountyToday.com’s request for an interview on the matter, but did post a clarification about the challenged ballots to his Facebook page. In that statement, Holt denies engaging in vote hunting.
“My team of volunteers are out trying to help people in our community resolve their signature issue so that everyone’s ballot is counted,” the statement reads. “WE DO NOT ASK HOW SOMEONE VOTED NOR DO WE ASK WHAT PARTY THEY BELONG TO OR SUPPORT (emphasis his). If someone volunteers that information to us, I have instructed my volunteers to return the signature affidavit to the Elections office no matter what. We will not dispose of, block, impede, or in any other way, suppress or disenfranchise ANY voter.”
Quiring says their volunteers are also instructed not to ask how someone voted, or to refuse to assist anyone in getting their vote counted. But she added that they are basing their outreach on lists of likely Republican voters, and that Holt’s camp is almost surely doing the same thing.
“He wants to win, and I want to win,” Quiring says, “so we’re both going after votes that we think would help us do that.”
“At this point I think it’s pretty clear Eileen won and nothing’s going to change that,” Gellatly says.
Quiring wouldn’t go quite that far herself, saying she didn’t want to be overly confident, though she does remain optimistic that the end result will be a victory for her.
Whichever way the race ends up going, it could wind up being the poster child for “every vote matters” campaigns in Clark County for years to come.
If you’ve had an issue with your signature being rejected, you can contact the County Elections office to make sure all of your information, including your signature, is up to date. You can find more information on how to do that on the county’s website here. You can also check the status of your ballot here.