Rantz: Concern as Democrat director privately tested ballot tabulation server

Oct 4, 2023, 7:11 PM | Updated: Oct 5, 2023, 4:38 pm

King County voting verification floor...

King County voting verification floor. (Photo: King County)

(Photo: King County)

King County Elections (KCE) Director Julie Wise, a Democrat, privately tested ballot tabulation software. The surveillance camera that should have captured the test was not operational at the time. Now, Republicans are crying foul.

The main vote tabulation server “experienced a slowdown” during August’s primary, according to a spokesperson for KCE. It forced them to rely on a backup server. On July 31, KCE conducted a voluntary “Logic & Accuracy” test of that backup server to ensure that it would count votes accurately.

The spokesperson said that the test was conducted “when our ballot processing floor was open and observable.” But the office never informed leaders in either the Republican or Democrat parties that they were conducting the test. This alarmed King County Republican Chairman Mathew Patrick Thomas, who fired off a letter to Wise to express his concerns. 

‘Are you serious right now?’

Thomas wrote to Wise on Aug. 11, asking for clarity on what happened and why.

“Our concern pertains to the lack of notification and observer participation during the Logic and Accuracy (L&A) test as outlined in the applicable laws and provisions of Washington State,” Thomas wrote. “According to WAC 434-335-330 and WAC 434-335-310 in accordance with RCW 29.A.12.130, it is a requirement that political parties are informed and given the opportunity to observe the Logic and Accuracy test as an essential part of ensuring the transparency and integrity of the election process.” 

He noted that “observers from our party were not given the opportunity to witness the test proceedings.”

Thomas said he would be willing to look at recorded surveillance footage of the test being conducted and hoped that, in the future, there would be better communication. But the surveillance camera was broken. 

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“What? Are you kidding me? That’s serious right now. Are you serious right now?” Thomas reacted in an interview with The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “I was dumbfounded that in this day and age, with all the mistrust and elections going on nationwide, they somehow thought it was OK in King County to swap out a server mid-election, not tell anyone about it, and then, ‘Oh, by the way, the cameras aren’t working either.’ This is insanity. And we can’t as a political party stand for it … If you want to have people trust our election system, can you do the little extra step about calling the parties and let them know that?” 

The KCE spokesperson said when they discovered the surveillance system was down, they worked with facilities to address the problem. 

Calling for a review by the secretary of state

The Secretary of State’s Office said it was “kept apprised of the server issue by King County,” in a statement to The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. However, a spokesperson noted that the “regular procedure of notifying political party chairs was not followed.”

Now, Washington State Republican Party chairman Jim Walsh is calling on Secretary Steven Hobbs, a Democrat, to “review carefully the documents and public statements provided by King County Elections regarding the non-compliant server replacement during the August primary.”

Walsh contends that replacing the tabulation server “with a second server that had not undergone proper testing for the August 2023 primary election, as mandated by state law RCW 29A.12.130 and WAC 434-335-330” is in violation of state law.

“Several days later, approximately July 31, 2023, King County Elections conducted what it calls a ‘Mid-election’ L&A Test on the replacement server,” Walsh wrote to Hobbs on Sept. 29. “However, records indicate that this test did not adhere to legally required ‘Emergency L&A’ testing standards, protocols and procedures. Moreover, the test was conducted under questionable circumstances — without required witnesses or functioning video cameras. Consequently, there is no conclusive evidence that the ‘Mid-election’ L&A Test was carried out.”

Walsh is asking that KCE be “reprimanded” for its handling of the test. He says Hobbs has not yet responded to his letter. 

What exactly happened?

A spokesperson for KCE noted to The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that their “records show that there was a trained observer on-site at the time of the test.” But it’s unclear of their identity or if they were merely on-site at the time of the test, or if they were in the room to actually witness the test.

“I’m not sure where the observer was on the floor at the time of the L&A,” the KCE spokesperson explained. She noted, however, that their ballot processing floor is open and “our observers are free to wander our ballot processing floor whenever and wherever they prefer.”

Thomas, meanwhile, said this incident highlights the need for transparency. He doesn’t think the primary was tampered with, nor does he suspect any future election would be “stolen.” But he does think that incidents like this, particularly with a suspiciously broken surveillance system, give reason for voters to distrust the system.

“This is nothing about calling it fraud. Can you discover inside the lines, can you do things by the book, and just do things the right way? And especially when it comes to elections? And then this one? I don’t think they could have screwed it up any worse than they did,” Thomas noted.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow him on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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