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County auditor talks about election process

Mason County Auditor Steve Duenkel talked about seeking security at the county's 13 ballot drop boxes, encouraged people to observe the election process, and said he believes his position should remain a partisan office Tuesday at a meeting of the League of Women Voters of Mason County in the Olympic College Shelton library meeting room.

The League submitted eight questions in advance to Duenkel, who was elected in 2022. He presented his answers in a Powerpoint presentation and then elaborated on his thoughts.

Duenkel was asked if members of the League, as nonpartisan representatives, could participate in the committee to certify the vote, be a voter observer or be involved in the vote curing process.

Duenkel said they could, while noting that the ballot curing process is done by trained members of the election team deputized by the canvassing board. Anyone can observe, he said.

"I encourage you guys to come down and watch it ... I welcome everybody. The more eyes the better," he said.

Duenkel was asked what his office is doing to ensure the safety of ballot drop boxes. He showed the cover of the Feb. 8 issue of the Journal featuring a photo and story about an attempted ballot box theft outside the North Mason Timberland Library in Belfair. The box was moved to outside the sheriff's office in Belfair, overseen by a surveillance camera, he said.

Duenkel said 11 of the 13 ballot drop boxes have surveillance cameras, and the office is looking into placing them at the other two, outside Fire District 4 in Kamilche and outside the Shelton YMCA.

Someone asked what would happen if a box containing ballots was stolen. Duenkel said he believed the election would have to be rerun.

Duenkel was asked if he thinks the office of county auditor should be nonpartisan. In his written response, he said "no." "I prefer partisan offices," he wrote. "Partisan candidates typically provide voters with a better understanding of where they stand on issues. Informed voters tend to make better decisions in how they express their sovereign power through their vote."

A member of the League pointed out he is an administrator who does not create policy. Nevertheless, "This is my personal feeling and perspective on it," Duenkel said.

If state law changed to establish a single "election day," Duenkel said he would support it. In his written response, he stated, "We conducted elections this way for generations. I anticipate that voters who have availability limitations could still vote absentee."

A League member said a one-day election would lead to long lines at the poll, some in bad weather. Another member pointed out that with the option to mail in ballots, 55% of registered voters in Washington cast ballots in the 2022 presidential election, 10th highest in the country.

"It's driven by state law - it's not up to your auditor," Duenkel said. He added, "In the end, I want to what the people of Mason County want to do."

Author Bio

Gordon Weeks, Reporter

Shelton-Mason County Journal & Belfair Herald

 

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