Election Integrity


Election administrators understand that elections are the foundation on which our system of self-governance rests. We take our responsibility to conduct elections pursuant to county, state and federal laws in a secure, transparent and accountable manner to produce accurate results very seriously.

Certified Software and Hardware
The software and hardware that is used to “program” each election, obtain information from the scanning of ballots, to resolve (aka “adjudicate”) voter intent issues on ballots and to convert the information from the scanning of ballots into election results (i.e. tabulation), collectively the “voting system”, has been certified by the Federal Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) and Washington’s Secretary of State. The Hart InterCivic voting system Clark County uses has been certified that it does not have any wireless communication capabilities. The voting system is not connected to the internet, intranet or extranet, and is “air gapped” from all other computers.

Physical Security
Clark County’s Elections Office is inside a building with a security system. The Elections Office has an additional, separate security system. The ballot scanning, adjudication and tabulation computers are located in a room (the “tab room”) that is dedicated to those tasks, the tab room is required to have at least two staff members present when the equipment is in use. The tab room is secured with serial numbered security tags (with a related accountability log that must be signed by two people each time a seal is established or broken).

Voted ballots that have not been processed are stored in a separate room that must also have at least two staff members present. The ballot storage room is also secured with serial numbered security tags and an accountability log. The ballot storage room, as well as several other areas inside the Elections Office, is secured with locks that only open to people who have been issued magnetic swipe cards.

Scanned ballots are placed in boxes secured with serial numbered security tags and stored in the tab room until after the election is certified, or if there is a recount(s), after the recount(s) is completed.

Hash Check Test
Prior to each election a Hash Check Test is conducted. This test ensures that the voting system software and hardware that will be used is exactly the same as what was certified by the EAC and the Secretary of State. The Hash Check Test compares the 0’s and 1’s of the software at the Elections Office with the 0’s and 1’s of the certified software.

Logic and Accuracy Test
Prior to printing ballots a Logic and Accuracy Test (L&A Test) verifies that the ballot counting system will correctly count the votes cast for all candidates and all measures appearing on the ballot. The L&A Test is accomplished by processing a group of test ballots marked with a known number of votes for each candidate and for and against each measure, as well as undervotes, overvotes and votes for write-in candidates. The test deck is designed to test every office and issue to verify that vote tabulation is correct. The L&A Test is conducted as a public meeting.

To ensure election results are not available until after 8:00pm Election Day, after the L&A Test has been completed the area where computer that tabulates results from the information obtained by the scanning of ballots is stored is sealed with serial numbered security tags. This area is then not opened until just before 8:00pm Election Day.

Signature Verification/Voter Credit
The primary security feature of a vote-by-mail election is the verification that the signature of the voter on the affidavit envelope matches the voter’s signature in their voter registration record. Every affidavit envelope that is returned by a voter is examined by a person who has been trained by the Washington State Patrol. For every election approximately one percent of the returned ballots are not processed (i.e. “challenged”) because the signature on the affidavit envelope doesn’t match the voter’s signature in their registration record. When a voter’s signature is challenged they are contacted and provided information about how they can “cure” the challenge.

Voters’ whose signatures are verified are given “credit” for voting. After that, if the voter submits a second ballot it will not be accepted for processing. Information about voters who attempt to vote two ballots is provided to law enforcement.

Election Observers
Observers are a very important part of the transparency of the elections administration process. In Clark County, there are three organizations that provide observers – the Democratic and Republican political parties, and the League of Women Voters. Observers are able to observe any and all aspects of ballot processing, however they are not allowed to disrupt the process or challenge decisions made by Elections employees. They are expected to bring to Elections Office supervisors concerns regarding alleged failures by staff to properly follow procedures and are encouraged to ask questions about the elections administration process.

As required by state law an audit is conducted of every election. This audit tests that the ballot processing equipment and software is accurately recording cast votes.  This audit is with the participation of a representative of the Democratic and Republican political parties and the League of Women Voters and is conducted in a public setting.  The audit consists of randomly selecting six batches of ballots (about 600 ballots), processing those ballots through the voting system, printing out the tabulated results, selecting one race, and then hand counting the votes for that one race and comparing the hand count to the tabulated results. The documented results of that audit are formally acknowledged by the representatives of the Democratic and Republican political parties and the League of Women Voters.

You may have heard the term “forensic audit” regarding elections. The definition of forensic audit is not well established in the elections administration profession. “Forensic” is the work relating to, used in, or suitable to a court of law. I am confident that the results of the audit we conduct for every election would be suitable to a court of law.

Chain of Custody/Reconciliation
At the end of each election a test of the chain of custody of ballots is conducted. A reconciliation of the number of ballot envelopes that were received with the number of voters given credit for voting with the number of ballots that were tabulated is carried out. When each of those numbers are the same we can be confident that every proper ballot returned by an eligible voter was included in the election results.

The best test of the integrity of an election is a recount. During my time in office each of the 19 recounts has confirmed the original result. In 2021 we recounted almost 36,000 ballots which again affirmed the original results and demonstrated again that our voting system software and hardware is 100.00% accurate.

Future Risk Limiting Audit
As of August 2024 we will begin conducting a Risk Limiting Audit (RLA) for every Statewide election. The RLA will be in addition to the audit described above.

A RLA uses statistics to confirm election outcomes. An RLA helps verify that the apparent winner of an election actually won. 

In a risk-limiting audit, ballots are randomly selected for review. Ballots are hand-tallied one by one until enough have been sampled to confirm that the correct winner was found the first time. If the winner won by a lot of votes, the sample needed to confirm the outcome may be quite small; if the race was close, the audit will examine more ballots.