News

An invitation to identity theft?

by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

Former Clallam County Auditor Ken Foster is unhappy with a decision made by the current auditor, Patty Rosand, and has taken his complaint to the public.

 

Foster says Rosand made the wrong decision when she chose less expensive envelopes for voters to use when returning completed ballots for the recent primary election.

 

“My wife and I were astonished to discover that when we went to seal up our envelopes containing our completed ballots that we were required to sign and date the outside of the envelope,” Foster said.

Foster said in the past the envelopes always had a flap to protect the voter’s personal information. “In addition to the voter’s signature, that personal information includes the voter’s printed name, address and voter registration number,” he said.

 

Foster said that makes the new envelopes an open invitation to identity theft. He also said Rosand justifies the change by pointing out the new envelopes save the auditor’s office $50.58 per thousand, but that “only amounts to slightly more than a nickel per envelope. I don’t think that justifies the potential risk ... to the voter.”

 

Foster said cutting costs doesn’t always justify the potential risk. “What about any potential liability to the county in the event it could be proven that the information was in part obtained by scanning the voter’s return envelope before it got to the courthouse?”

On the other hand

Rosand said she made the change when the Washington Legislature allowed it under a new law passed in 2010.

 

She said from 2005-2010 the law required the signature be covered with a flap but the new law left it up to auditors.

 

“Many of us chose to save money,” Rosand said.

 

Rosand said the other envelopes were more expensive and cost more to process at her office. She estimated the change saves her office “about $2,300 per countywide election.”

 

She also disagreed with Foster’s estimation of the risk, noting the envelopes in which ballots are returned always have been public record. That means they always have been available for perusal — and copying — by the public. That includes the signature, she said.

 

Foster agreed that is the case, but noted those seeking to review the envelopes, or any public record, are required to provide a reason for the request.

 

He added, “I’m more concerned about what happens from the time the envelope leaves the voter’s hands until it gets to the courthouse. This includes when voters simply put it in their rural postal mailbox.”

 

Rosand said she contacted Katie Blinn, assistant director of elections in the Washington Secretary of State’s office, and feels comfortable she made the right choice. “(Blinn) said there’s never been a case of reported identity theft because of election envelopes,” Rosand said.

 


Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

 

 

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