Harman says he’ll pay for election recount

A Whidbey News-Times article about errors in election result displays inspired an Oak Harbor mayoral candidate to ask for a manual recount.

Pat Harman, who is trailing incumbent Mayor Bob Severns by 485 votes, said he doesn’t expect a different outcome but said he sees it as a “public service.”

“I kind of feel the voters are entitled to have a system that is proven to be honest, and the only way to do that is a manual count,” Harman said.

Harman said he’s going to pay approximately $1,100 for the recount out of his own pocket.

Any person who received votes in any election may file an application for a recount of the votes, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Other individuals may also ask for a recount with a petition that has five or more signatures.

State and local elections officials said the cumulative totals for each candidate were verified and the display problems have been fixed. The issue stemmed from some of the precinct results being displayed under the wrong candidate in a number of races, according to Kylee Zabel, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office.

The precinct numbers in at least eight Island County contests didn’t add up to the candidate vote totals, and in some cases, made it appear as if the wrong candidate had won.

Improper ballot ordering caused the discrepancy, Zabel said. Counties set the ballot order prior to ballots being mailed to residences, but it wasn’t always the same as the order in the state’s database, she said.

Election results are posted through a statewide system operated by the secretary of state’s office. Officials at the county and state weren’t aware of the issue until Langley City Council candidate Craig Cyr called to point out an issue in a South Whidbey School Board race.

Cyr also notified the South Whidbey Record, and reporters identified more races with precinct numbers that didn’t add up correctly. The same issue occurred in 12 other counties, Zabel said.

“Despite this, cumulative totals were always correct,” she said in an email.

The precinct-level results were also correct in the state software system, called VoteWA, that stores the information. The system was launched this year and is intended to protect elections from cyber threats by securing the information in a cloud.

The ballot ordering issue associated with the new system also significantly delayed the publishing of results online on election night.

Zabel said the office is working with its vendor to streamline the ordering process for future elections.

Harman, who said he’s worked with computer systems most of his career, isn’t completely convinced the system is as secure as officials think. He said he doesn’t expect to emerge victorious from the recount, but he does predict some small differences in what was reported.

“They think their system is infallible,” he said, “I don’t think anything is infallible.”

The recount may take place after results are certified on Nov. 26.

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