By Steve Hobbs and Vicky Dalton
Your secretary of state and Washington’s 39 county auditors work together to maintain the integrity of our elections, advance election security, and offer inclusive education and registration programs that expand electoral participation to every eligible voter.
Groups like the Voter Research Project have called that commitment into question. Clipboards in hand, they knock on doors to ask residents about their voter registration status. They even casually refer to themselves as detectives, a disingenuous claim that undermines voter confidence in the elections process.
No county auditor’s office or representative from the Office of the Secretary of State will visit your home to verify your voter information. Should a stranger arrive at your door and begin this line of questioning, you are not obligated to disclose any information. In fact, state law (RCW 9A.60.404) prohibits unauthorized people from falsely claiming to represent the Office of the Secretary of State or a county auditor’s office. To be clear, candidates and advocates canvassing door-to-door to talk about issues is legal, but no one may falsely represent themselves as government election officials.
These operations are going to the homes of students who are away at college, voters who are overseas, and military who are serving our country – those whose voting rights are protected by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) enacted by Congress in 1986. These misguided efforts, which began in King, Thurston and Clark counties, result in gross disinformation.
A recent Spokesman-Review opinion piece (Sue Lani Madsen: Clean voter registration rolls is a bipartisan concern) talks about these door-to-door efforts, claiming there are blatant discrepancies in our voter rolls. The article, however, offers little in the way of irrefutable evidence and hard data.
Here are the facts.
There are approximately 356,000 active voters in Spokane County. From Jan. 1 through May 31 of this year, more than 6,500 people registered to vote, while over 6,200 registration records were inactivated or canceled. Inactivated registrations were due to returns by the U.S. Postal Service (“undeliverable,” “no longer at this address,” etc.) and updates from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) – more on that below – and other entities. Cancellations were due to deaths reported by the state Department of Health, the Social Security Administration (SSA), ERIC and others.
In addition, over 31,000 records were updated, whether due to name changes, address updates, second addresses provided by the voter, or via other sources including ERIC, USPS, the state Department of Licensing and others.
Madsen’s Spokesman-Review opinion piece also makes unsubstantiated claims regarding ERIC. A nonprofit, nonpartisan data-sharing consortium composed of 31 states and the District of Columbia, ERIC helps states strengthen the accuracy of their voter rolls.
Here’s how: ERIC’s data-matching software produces reports identifying voters who have moved within the state, voters who have moved from one ERIC state to another, voters who have died, and voters with duplicate in-state registrations. States can request reports identifying voters who may have cast ballots in more than one state.
Since joining ERIC in 2012, Washington has received more than 1.5 million updates containing information about potential duplicative registrations and registration address changes, deceased voters, and voters who have moved to other states.
ERIC also identifies eligible citizens who are not registered to vote. With the help of ERIC data, in September we sent more than 105,000 outreach postcards to Washingtonians identified as potentially eligible but unregistered. In the last decade we have mailed more than 3.3 million of these postcards.
In Washington state, election officials conduct rigorous, ongoing maintenance of our voter rolls. We use accurate and reliable data to keep voter information verified and current. This state and federal partnership includes the Office of the Secretary of State, county auditors, the state departments of Licensing, Health, and Corrections, the Office of the Administrator of the Courts, USPS, SSA and ERIC.
This partnership also includes our voters, who play an equally important role in helping to keep our voter rolls up to date. If you receive a ballot package for someone who is no longer living at your address, mark it “No longer at this address” and mail it back to your county auditor’s office.
All of us have a part to play in ensuring our voter rolls are accurate, and your confidence in the integrity of our elections must not be undermined by disinformation or disingenuous claims. Visit spokanecounty.org/elections and sos.wa.gov/elections for election facts. We look forward to partnering with you on solutions that promote civic engagement and advance election security for all Americans.
Steve Hobbs is Washington’s 16th Secretary of State. Secretary Hobbs leads the office responsible for managing state and local elections, corporation and charity filings, Washington State Library, Washington State Archives, and a number of other community programs. Vicky Dalton is the Spokane County Auditor. Serving since 1999, Auditor Dalton has overseen nearly 100 elections, including six presidential elections, and numerous recounts.
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