Saturday Feb 04, 2023

Republicans call for thorough review of 2020 Spokane County election, but county officials unlikely to be able to fulfill request – The Spokesman Review


A subcommittee of the Spokane County Republican Party is calling for an audit of the 2020 election, but the county commissioners say they can’t authorize one and it may not be legally feasible.

Matt Hawkins, the party’s state committeeman, presented on Monday a petition to the commissioners asking for a “comprehensive election system audit” to “restore confidence in our elections.”

The county GOP supports the petition, as do 4th Legislative District Reps. Rob Chase and Bob McCaslin. McCaslin is running for county auditor, the office that oversees local elections.

“We’re not trying to say any one person has done anything wrong,” Hawkins said. “We’re not trying to say that any fraud has been committed. We are trying to say we want to restore confidence to the election system.”

The audit for which Republicans are calling wouldn’t be an audit in the traditional sense of the word.

It wouldn’t be a standalone analysis of data and records. Instead, Hawkins said he wants a thorough inspection by a third party of the county’s entire elections process. Everything including the software and hardware of tabulation machines, ballot distribution and collection procedures should be reviewed, he said.

The Spokane County Auditor’s Office has much of the information Hawkins wants and shares it with the public. Some of the petition’s questions can be answered by the state; other requests are unlikely to be granted at all, due to Washington privacy and cyber security laws.

Even if the requests can be legally fulfilled, the Republican Party’s subcommittee is likely pleading its case to the wrong people.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Board of County Commissioners has the authority to do what you’re asking to do,” said Mark McClain, the commissioners’ attorney. “I think where you guys need to go is the Secretary of State.”

Hawkins said he doesn’t have any evidence of election fraud, inaccurate vote counting or wrongdoing by the county auditor’s office.

Still, the petition includes a long list of questions and concerns regarding the 2020 election, and Hawkins said he thinks the case is more than strong enough to warrant an audit.

“There’s enough evidence that continues to come in and we have even more material on our background that we’re working on that is pertinent to Spokane County,” Hawkins said. “We’re just not ready to address those details at this time.”

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said she plans to respond to Hawkins’ questions and bring the commissioners more information once she’s had a chance to review the petition.

She emphasized that her office does much of what’s being requested.

“We already have a lot of controls and procedures in place,” Dalton said.

Dalton pointed to her office’s recount record as one example of how carefully she and her staff run elections. Spokane County performs recounts when a race is close enough to trigger one. They often don’t change a single vote.

“We are accurate,” Dalton said.

The petition

Some of the petition’s points are general questions about how Spokane County elections work. Dalton said Hawkins’ group never shared their questions with her. She could have answered many of them if they’d asked.

• Who prints the ballots? A print shop in Western Washington.

• How are they mailed out? Dalton’…….


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