Elections Office makes third ballot mistake

REBECCA WHITE, Evergreen assistant news editor

The Whitman County Elections Office made its third ballot error in as many elections early last week.

The information on the final ballot was correct when it was sent into the office and was not proofread by elections staff before being sent to the printers.

The language, a yes or no vote on whether the town of Rosalia should be annexed into Fire District 2, was reversed in the final ballot.

This error is the third in a series of election mistakes from the Whitman County Auditor’s Office, the previous two occurring during the November and February elections.

Whitman County Auditor Eunice Coker said if the elections office had more trained and authorized personnel, the number of election mistakes would be lower.

“I feel having more staff will reduce the amount of election errors,” Coker said. “We have 20,000 active voters and students who are not active voters. Having 2.5 people trained to get into the system isn’t enough for a county this size.”

Coker said in a few weeks she intends to present to the Board of County Commissioners to ask for funding to hire an additional authorized employee. Commissioner of District 2 Dean Kinzer said he does not believe that more staff will solve the election errors.

“I don’t see that as the root of the problem,” Kinzer said. “They’re adequately staffed; asking for another position is very difficult. If you get more people doing something wrong faster, that doesn’t help you get it right.”

Adding more election employees would also put a strain on the already tight Whitman County budget, Kinzer said.

“We’re going to listen to her and see what the problems are and why her staff can’t handle it,” he said. “If we allocate additional money for her office, someone else in the county will have to go because we don’t have money for additional personnel.”

The Whitman County Elections Office was also audited in March by the Office of the Secretary of State. The audit identified close to 20 election violations by the Whitman County Election Auditor, which were marked mandatory for improvement, including ballot box security, disability access, improper voter registration notices and an accidental early tabulation of election results.

Coker said the most recent error was the fault of the auditor’s office, but previous mistakes were because of other factors.

“What it came down to was elections staff had not done a final proof on the ballot,” Coker said. “This time, it was an auditor error. They weren’t always our errors, but we stepped up and made it right.”

Coker said the cost of sending out the corrected ballots will be paid for by the county.

Reporting by Rebecca White