The Lewis County Canvassing Board meeting in the Lewis County Auditor’s Office on Wednesday morning was mostly silent, punctuated occasionally by a yawn or the smack of a stamp on a denied ballot.
“Paint drying is (more exciting) because with paint sometimes a fly will fly into it,” said Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Meyer with a forced chuckle as the meeting wrapped up.
However, as Commissioner Lindsey Pollock noted, in this case, “boring is good.”
Earlier this week, the auditor’s office received several emails from a voter who threatened violence at the meeting or afterward.
“We were in receipt of an
emailed threat to the canvassing board regarding a vote that had been postmarked late, noting ‘heads would roll either in the office or the parking lot,’” Pollock said during a Monday morning public meeting.
The Chronicle confirmed the existence of that email from a voter whose ballot was postmarked Nov. 9, the auditor’s office stated. Election workers then filed for an investigation on the threat from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.
The email and another from the same person claimed the office was attempting to suppress their vote, they deserved to be compensated for mental and emotional trauma including through a public apology, and they would not accept a late postmark as an excuse.
The email also claimed the auditor’s office “fixed the last election” and that democracy was under attack due to the cheating, echoing statements made repeatedly by Republican former President Donald Trump after he lost the 2020 presidential election.
Every partisan elected official in Lewis County is Republican, including Auditor Larry Grove. The members of the canvassing board, which include Meyer, Grove and Pollock — respectively representing the justice system, county offices and citizens — are also all declared Republicans. This year, Grove and Meyer also had representatives from their office as part of the process because both ran in the election, though they were unopposed.
Wednesday morning’s meeting was held inside the office and staffed with a law enforcement officer, rather than in the usually-informal, open setting of the Lewis County Courthouse lobby.
The board reviewed ballot-after-ballot that was postmarked late, unsigned or where the signature did not match the voter’s signature on file.
“We don’t even know if this is the voter signing these,” said Terry Jouper, elections supervisor. He added that the office’s machines’ ability to spit out ballots without matching signatures and subsequent review by the board is what prevents fraud and ensures voters only filled out their own ballots, saying, “This is the system working.”
For about an hour and a half, the board sat and watched as Jouper showed ballots, postmarks and signatures on an overhead projector. Occasional questions were called out, including how the office remedies the mistakes.
Jouper said for late ballots, voters receive a letter informing them of what happened and how to avoid it in the future. Often, he said, the ballots are late due to someone dropping them in a U.S. Postal Service dropbox after the last mail pick-up time for that day, leading anything in the box from Nov. 8 (election day) to be marked on Nov. 9, thus being unacceptable. For signature issues, the ballots can be cured if the voter responds to a letter or phone call from the office. They’ll either update their signature, resign the ballot or sign it for the first time — if they respond. The office also attempts to contact the voters via mail, according to Jouper.
He said about 50% of the attempts to cure ballots have been successful so far, and that with one campaign focusing on ballot-curing as a means to get more votes — 3rd Congressional District Candidate Joe Kent’s campaign — there have been more voters focused on it this year.
“Unfortunately election workers across the country have faced threats in recent years. The Lewis County Auditor’s Office follows all state and federal election laws. We will continue to perform our duties and serve the public,” wrote Grove in a statement on the threat.
To check on ballot status, visit https://voter.votewa.gov/WhereToVote.aspx. The canvassing board will meet once more before election certification, which will take place on Nov. 29.
Learn more about the current election or how to contact the auditor’s office at https://elections.lewiscountywa.gov/.