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Whitman auditor responds to elections review

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Whitman auditor responds to elections review

An audit of the Whitman County  elections department found nearly 20 election procedure violations in 2015.

An audit of the Whitman County  elections department found nearly 20 election procedure violations in 2015.

An audit of the Whitman County  elections department found nearly 20 election procedure violations in 2015.

An audit of the Whitman County  elections department found nearly 20 election procedure violations in 2015.

From staff reports

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Nearly 20 election violations by the Whitman County Auditor were marked as “Mandatory for Improvement” in the Washington State Elections Procedure Review, only a few of which the county auditor said were legitimate concerns.

The other allegations, Whitman County Auditor Eunice Coker said, were either erroneously reported by the state or have already been corrected.

The most serious offense Coker admitted her department was at fault for was an early tabulation of results on Election Day. The error occurred when a ballot counter accidentally hit a button on the computer she was using to count votes that printed out an early tabulation of the election.

Per Washington state law, a readable report of results can’t be created on Election Day before 8 p.m., and the worker tabulated the results at 11:16 a.m., according to the review.

The mistake was realized almost immediately, Coker said, and the elections office shredded the report before anyone read it. For the next election, Coker said the department will upgrade its software to make it impossible to print results before 8 p.m.

The procedure review also stated the voting center at Pullman City Hall, the only one of its kind in Pullman, was lacking several key elements mandatory for a full-service ballot office in Washington.

In order for City Hall to accommodate all Washington voters, it would require serious upgrades to its balloting process and training for its three employees that Coker said was not feasible for a location that can host as few as 15 walk-up voters in an election.

The procedure review recommended Pullman City Hall either make the improvements or downgrade to a drop-box only voting site, which Coker said would force handicapped persons requiring accommodations to go to Colfax to vote.

Instead, Coker said she offered a compromise to the state, proposing to add a station for voters to print out a provisional ballot if they don’t bring their own.

The Election Procedures Review stated there was a lack of security with the election drop boxes, stating just one person – when there is supposed to be two – emptied the boxes on election nights, and that the boxes are secured by keyed lock, suggesting instead unique number seals with logs to keep track of access should be used.

In her response to the review, Coker stated seals and logs would be used in future elections to maximize security of the drop boxes. She also wrote that two people always empty the drop boxes.

Coker wanted to assure Whitman voters that their ballots were not being tampered with, and that her office had not received reports of drop-box vandalism.

This was the first time the Office of the Secretary of the State reviewed Whitman County’s elections procedures since 2010. State law dictates each elections office must be audited at least once every five years.

Reporting by Dustin Brennan

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Whitman auditor responds to elections review