Nearly 10 months after President Donald Trump lost his bid for a second term in office, a handful of elected officeholders on the fringes of Washington’s Republican party persist in cynically pushing false allegations about a stolen election. They are shamelessly playing on concerns of voters, who turn out for rallies and tune in to social media posts that amplify their fears.
Rumors of systemic voter fraud and gaping vulnerabilities in Washington’s election system are utterly unfounded, says Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican who has held that office since 2013. Elected leaders strongly concur, including Republican leaders in the state House and Senate.
Nevertheless, a handful of Republican state legislators persist in peddling this snake-oil through rallies, social media posts and sending letters on official legislative stationary to Wyman. This small group, led by state representatives like Robert Sutherland, R-Granite Falls, and Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, even are entertaining the prospect of suing counties to force another look at election results.
There’s nothing wrong with asking questions about government processes. The trouble is, these persistent skeptics aren’t listening to the answers. If Sutherland does have “overwhelming evidence that brings into question the validity of our election processes,” as he asserted in an Aug. 21 Facebook post, he must immediately report it to authorities.
Election fraud is a felony crime.
Voter fraud is also rare. Over the years, Washington state has experienced only a few isolated cases of voters turning in duplicate ballots or trying to illegally register to vote, according to a list compiled by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Those people were charged with crimes, even though their misdeeds weren’t enough to influence an election. When ACORN workers in Seattle turned in 1,762 fraudulent voter-registration forms in 2006, they went to jail.
Yet in an Aug. 17 letter, Rep. Kraft wrote to Secretary Wyman and county election officials that many of Washington’s election processes were “ripe for fraud” when they were adopted by other states during the pandemic election. That is backward logic. Most Washington counties have been securely voting by mail since 2005. Same-day registration, a newer innovation, only followed a system upgrade that ensured voters couldn’t register more than once.
In an interview, Kraft said a review of Clark County voting records revealed seven county jail inmates voted, along with voters registering with nontraditional addresses like P.O. boxes and storage units. She said she’d heard stories of college students receiving ballots both at home and school.
But only convicted felons are barred from voting. Most jail inmates are serving misdemeanor sentences or awaiting trial. The state has rules that accommodate voters without permanent residences and if those college students tried turning in both ballots, only the first would be counted.
Kraft wondered if it’s even possible to validate same-day voter registrations.
Unequivocally, yes. In the final eight days before any election, voters must register in person at their county elections office. All registrants must prove their identity with a state ID card, valid driver’s license or Social Security number. The VoteWa system launched in 2019 eliminates duplicate registrations, whenever they are filed.
Past contentious elections have launched meaningful discussions about elections processes and led to systemic improvements. The controversial 2000 presidential election yielded the Help America Vote Act. Here in Washington, the 2004 gubernatorial squeaker between Democrat Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi inspired sweeping election reforms. These elected officials are pounding a different kind of drumbeat. Obstinately repeating questions without listening to the answers doesn’t lead to progress. It only breeds unwarranted mistrust.
No system is perfect, but Washington’s system is highly secure and transparent, as leaders like Wyman, and state House and Senate GOP leaders Rep. J.T. Wilcox and Sen. John Braun have been telling groups around the state.
If these elected officials have concerns, there are better ways to address them. Namely, they should educate themselves instead of borrowing half-baked theories and spouting fanciful hypotheticals.