Secretary of State’s Office reports 142 suspected improper voting cases in 2018

May 5, 2020, 3:36 PM
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The Washington State Office of the Secretary of State found 142 cases of suspected improper voting in the 2018 general election.

The cases included people who potentially voted in more than one county or state, and people who voted with ballots belonging to deceased individuals.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman says this sometimes happens with people who have homes in two different states or counties, or students who move to college but are still registered at their parents’ home in another state or county.

“You might have a voter who is registered to vote in Washington state, but they’re still registered in Colorado, let’s say,” she said. “In our cross-matching, we haven’t picked up on that being the same voter. Their names and birthdays may match, but there may be things that make it look like they’re two separate people.”

Sec. Kim Wyman: Smartphone voting too risky to implement

She said that her office does a diligent job of constantly checking voter registration lists, but this can be difficult because 10 percent of the electorate moves every year. Additionally, timing can come into play — if a person dies just as ballots are being sent out, they may still receive one.

“We work very hard to cross-match our lists to other lists — the Department of Licensing, the Department of Corrections, the Social Security Death Index … and against other states’ databases,” Wyman said.

Wyman says 142 cases out of 3.1 million ballots — the amount cast in 2018 — is a very low rate of improper voting

Still, she said, “there’s no acceptable number of fraudulent votes cast, I think we can all agree on that, so that’s why we’re turning this information over to our county auditors.”

County elections officials will turn the cases over to law enforcement for further investigation. If investigations find reason to believe the double votes were an attempt at voter fraud rather than a simple mistake, the voters can be prosecuted. The maximum penalty for voter fraud is five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Wyman is very hopeful that the new statewide voter registration database rolled out last year, votewa.gov, will also catch those who are not following the rules, especially as people register to vote on election day.

Overall, Wyman said, the minuscule fraction of votes that are suspected to be improper is really a testament to Washington’s success in curbing voter fraud.

“Is it perfect? No. But any process that involves people in voting or counting the balance is going to have mistakes that are made. But are we seeing any kind of evidence of rampant fraud? No, we’re not,” Wyman said. “When you look at 142 people out of 3 million ballots cast, it’s a very small number.”


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Secretary of State’s Office reports 142 suspected improper voting cases in 2018