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WA Secretary of State: Trump comments about mail-in voting fraud ‘undermines confidence’

A ballot drop box near Gas Works Park in Seattle. (MyNorthwest photo)

Election Day isn’t until Nov. 3, but the primary election in Washington state is just one day away. For those voting, ballots must be postmarked or placed in a dropbox by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman told Seattle’s Morning News that she’s been called for more and more interviews as other states are hoping to adopt a mail-in voting system before the November election, looking to Washington as an example.

“The last thing I’m trying to do is start a war with the White House, but at the same time, my job is to inspire confidence in, certainly in Washington voters, and the public,” Wyman said. “But on a national level this fall, we want people to believe the results after the election. So I try to walk that balance of not not completely going into a battleground with them, but correcting the misstatements that might be made.”

Show host Colleen O’Brien pointed out that the Trump administration has already called vote-by-mail a fraud, a coup, and illegal. So what would it take for Wyman to put on her battle gear?

“Well, I think I have already started putting it on, yeah,” she admitted. “It’s unfortunate that we have leaders like … Attorney General Barr and President Trump who are really trying to politicize … a process that is used to select our representative form of government. And every time the president talks about fraud or says the election’s going to be rigged, it does make people question those basic administrative processes that are built in to inspire confidence.”

“So, yes, I find myself on more and more interviews nationally, certainly, that I’m talking and really kind of, I guess, standing up to the president in probably my own way,” she added. “Not necessarily the way that some folks would like me to, but I think that the more we can share the safeguards that we have in place, the more people will discount what’s said maliciously, if you will, and we’ll focus on the results being fair.”

Washington state has been using a mail-in voting system for nine years, with very few cases of confusion or fraud. However, Wyman believes it would be difficult for states to adopt new mail-in voting systems successfully between now and Election Day.

“Pretty much the country woke up to the idea of mail-in voting in probably mid-March when COVID really started getting a foothold and states were trying to conduct their presidential primaries,” Wyman said. “And our phone rang off the hook for a good solid, probably three months from other states trying to figure out how they could best convert their systems over to an absentee voting model that’s expanded, or to full vote-by-mail.”

In March and April, Wyman didn’t think there was enough time for those states to convert their system.

“With that said, they haven’t stopped trying,” she added. “And I think every state in the country is embracing the fact that many of their voters are going to have to vote at home. They’re trying to figure out how to make that happen, and they’re working hard to make that happen.”

It was originally more of an issue of waiting on Congress to get funding to states to give them the resources to set up a mail system, but now she said they’re just figuring out how to make it happen.

“And if [Congress sends] the money, that’s going to be an added bonus,” she said.

Voting by mail versus absentee ballots

Absentee voting and vote by mail are similar as far as the administrative process, Wyman explained, but there is an important distinction.

“From a technical and administrative point of view, voting by mail and voting an absentee ballot, the processes are identical,” Wyman said. “The way we process those ballots here in Washington are the same as Tennessee processes an absentee ballot. With that said, the subtle nuance difference is that an absentee ballot is something that’s requested by a voter. A vote by mail ballot is something that’s issued by government. And I think that’s why you see this sort of partisan line being drawn, particularly by Republicans, that there’s a difference.”

Wyman says it’s frustrating when the president makes comments that mail-in voting will lead to fraudulent election results.

“It’s very frustrating because, again, I think it undermines confidence,” she said. “But I look back to 2016, and about the same time in 2016 we heard very similar rhetoric coming from Candidate Trump that this election was going to be … rigged. I don’t think he used the term rigged, but he might have.”

Election officials, she said, are going to instead keep concentrating on the safeguards that are in place, including the fact that they check every signature against the voter registration signature on file.

“We’re verifying and making sure that people don’t vote more than once,” Wyman said. “And we have safeguards, both cyber and physical, to prevent that from happening. And so we’re going to continue to do that. And we’re going to make Washington proud of our election system.”

WA disproving claim that vote-by-mail systems encourage fraud

Wyman has invited staff from the White House or the Department of Justice to come out to Washington state for a personal tour of the election sites to show them the on-the-ground mechanics.

“So far the phone hasn’t rang, but I’m still optimistic it could,” she said.

If you haven’t yet turned in your ballot, Wyman recommends putting it in a dropbox to guarantee it makes it to election officials on time. There are dropboxes located across the state, and they close promptly at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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