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State audit gives thumbs-up to Spokane County election accuracy

Spokane County Elections Office 2021 RW.jpg
Rebecca White, SPR News
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The Spokane County Elections Office. (FILE PHOTO)

A required audit of Spokane County ballot tabulation ended successfully this week, with no major problems identified.

The audit was carried out by election workers and supervised by Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin. Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton and nine volunteer observers from both political parties watched the three-hour audit.

Audit teams tested the accuracy of county ballot scanners by comparing 129 ballots cast in a legislative race chosen at random by the Washington Secretary of State’s office. The 129 ballots were drawn using a random number generator, according to a county press release.

The selected ballots were given to two teams of auditors for review. The teams compared each ballot to its reported results, to confirm ballot scanners recorded the votes properly.

“We’re grateful for the observers of both parties who took time to review the process,” Dalton said in a statement. “Local voters can be confident that the 2022 election was fairly conducted and accurately recorded.”

The audit was required before Spokane County’s canvassing board could certify local election results. Certification is scheduled for November 29.

Dalton’s own race for county auditor is still not settled, as elections officials work with voters to “cure” challenged ballots. That might mean something as simple as remedying a signature mismatch. There were 3,128 challenged ballots in Spokane County as of Thursday, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Voters face a November 28 deadline to fix the issues that caused their ballot to be challenged and have their vote counted.

Dalton, a Democrat, led Republican challenger Bob McCaslin by 1,242 votes Thursday, a 0.57-percentage point gap. That margin isn’t close enough to trigger at automatic recount at present, but final results won’t be known until the certification later this month. Even if the final result is outside the bounds of a required recount, McCaslin, political party officers, or a group of five or more voters can request one.

McCaslin, irked by a Spokesman story this week that called the race for Dalton, said in a statement Thursday that every challenged “Republican” ballot needed to be cured. Ballots in Washington carry no inherent partisan quality or designation.

He also asserted without proof that results in the auditor’s race might be suspicious because Dalton is both candidate and current auditor. McCaslin is running for the same job.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.