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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Trump team not challenging Washington votes; some Culp supporters echo complaints

A view of the White House, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020.  (Evan Vucci)

Representatives of President Donald Trump are pursuing thus-far unproven claims of fraud and illegal voting in Michigan, Pennsylvania and several other states, but have not taken issue with the presidential results in in Washington.

That’s probably because that race was never in doubt, and the results, which will be certified next week in the state’s 39 counties, show the president nearly 800,000 votes behind former Vice President Joe Biden.

It’s also unlikely that anyone will try to replace Washington’s Biden electors with Trump electors before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, which has been suggested in Michigan. It would be difficult in any state, but almost impossible in Washington.

But that doesn’t mean no one is raising any questions about Washington election results, and some are similar to those raised by Rudy Giuliani or other members of the Trump election challenge team.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman said her office has received about 100 calls and “a few hundred emails” with some concerns and complaints about results, primarily from supporters of GOP gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp, who trails incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee by a slightly smaller margin of nearly 546,000 votes.

“No system is perfect,” Wyman said. There can be discrepancies, but “it’s not necessarily fraud.”

Like the Trump team, they question the use of machines made by Dominion Voting Systems, repeating unfounded claims they are tied to foreign governments or longtime Democratic contributor George Soros.

Franklin County is the only place in Washington that uses a Dominion system, and has for more than 10 years, Wyman said.

Because Washington is an all-mail voting state, the counties always have the paper ballots to check against the result, she said.

They do both a pre-election check with a stack of sample ballots that have been marked and recorded, then compare that count to the machine results. After election night, they take several precincts at random, hand count the ballots and compare those results to the machine results.

Franklin County’s results matched both times, she said.

One complaint the Trump team has in other states with poll-site voting involves “overvoting,” or the number of ballots counted not matching the number of voters who signed at the polls.

Washington residents don’t vote at poll sites, but they did up until 2004, when Wyman was running elections in Thurston County.

“Poll site voting is described as being this bastion of perfection,” she said. “It wasn’t.”

Every election, there were 20% to 30% of the poll site records that didn’t quite balance when they came in, because of human error. For about half of those, minor mistakes were readily apparent and corrected.

“In any given election, there were 10% to 15% that took a while to figure out,” she said. “There were always one or two poll books that were never going to balance.”

Some counties would allow a precinct poll book to be off by as many as three votes.

“No one worried about that until Rossi-Gregoire,” she said.

That 2004 governor’s race went to two recounts and wound up with Christine Gregoire ahead of Dino Rossi by 129 votes, so a couple of votes per precinct mattered.

Culp has suggested to supporters that Washington should return to in-person voting at poll sites, but some of the people contacting the secretary of state’s office seem to want to go back to a system that didn’t really exist.

Despite what they believe, Washington voters did not have to show ID at the poll when voting. Voters signed a book before receiving a ballot, but there was no way for the poll worker to verify that signature with the one on file with the county.

“It was based on the honor system,” Wyman said.

Some callers want the state to check the voter lists against the list of American citizens. But that latter list doesn’t exist, Wyman said. Even the Social Security system includes people who aren’t citizens, for tax purposes.

Both the counties and states must certify their votes before telling Congress on Dec. 8 who their presidential electors are expected to cast votes for when they meet in the state capitals on Dec. 14. Washington certifies its results on Dec. 3; other states have other deadlines.

The Trump campaign is trying to block the Michigan certification based on allegations of fraud, the Associated Press reported. It may be lobbying the Republican leaders of that state’s Legislature to name the Michigan electors.

That’s theoretically possible, but would be almost impossible in Washington, even if the presidential race were close. It would require the Legislature to be in session, which it is not, then to pass a new law repealing the 2019 law that awards the state’s electors to the candidate who received the most votes, and have the governor sign the new law.

The current law was passed after four Washington electors in 2016 decided not to vote for Hillary Clinton, who won the state’s popular vote, as part of an effort to convince Trump electors in other states to withhold their votes and keep him from being president. Their plan failed, but they voted for other people anyway.

Michigan doesn’t have such a law, although it does require the electors from the party of the candidate certified as the winner of the election to cast their ballots for that party’s president and vice president. In theory, if the election isn’t certified, a Legislature could appoint electors to cast ballots for someone the lawmakers choose.

But that would likely result in a legal challenge, Wyman said.