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County auditor candidates seek greater efficiencies in government

Republican Alene Lindstrand (left) faces Democratic incumbent Vicky Dalton (right) in the race for Spokane County auditor. (Candidate courtesy)
Republican Alene Lindstrand (left) faces Democratic incumbent Vicky Dalton (right) in the race for Spokane County auditor. (Candidate courtesy)

Longtime Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton is seeking a fifth term for her job at the courthouse – currently the only partisan seat held by a Democrat in county government.

She’s facing a spirited challenge from Republican Alene Lindstrand, a real estate agent who currently serves on the Spokane County Planning Commission.

Both said they want greater efficiencies in county government.

“The biggest thing is moving into the technology age” by conversion to electronic records, said Dalton, 53. “Government is not as efficient as business can be” because of numerous limitations in state law, she said.

Lindstrand, 63, said she wants to bring her experience in small business to the courthouse to improve the operation of the office.

“We’ve got a long way to go to update into the 21st century,” Lindstrand said.

She said it’s time for a change in the auditor’s office. “Sixteen years and looking at a fifth term is a long time. I think it’s too long,” Lindstrand said.

Dalton said the issue is not the length of her service as auditor but competence. “I do the job and I do it well,” she said. “This is not a political job. It’s an administrative job.”

The county auditor oversees county elections; records property transactions and other legal documents; issues marriage licenses; provides county vehicle licensing services; and pays the county’s bills.

Dalton is the front-runner based on her garnering 61 percent of the primary election vote against Lindstrand’s 38 percent.

But Lindstrand leads in campaign fundraising with nearly $18,000 compared with $5,200 for Dalton.

Part of the debate between the two candidates centers around the management of elections and voting.

Lindstrand said she believes the way ballots are sent by mail and counted electronically leaves plenty of room for error and even fraud.

“I want security in place,” she said.

Lindstrand wants to ensure that only qualified residents are allowed to register to vote, which is best done by requiring identification when a person registers, she said.

Dalton said the state already requires a driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number to verify the identity of a person registering.

“We verify every single signature,” she said.

About a half-percent of returned ballots each election lack the voter signature on the return ballot envelope or the signature does not match the one on file with the county and state.

Lindstrand said there is a potential for fraud by people who vote another person’s ballot and sign that person’s name to the return envelope.

Dalton acknowledged the possibility of such voter fraud, but said the signature comparison currently used on returned ballots has worked well. “Voter fraud is incredibly rare,” she said. “We have a lot of different controls in place.”

She said technology is available to screen signatures electronically and needs to be implemented to speed ballot processing.

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