GOP secretary of state candidate Phil McGrane says concerns about vote counting are a “legitimate question” because of his endorsements from retiring Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and 24 of the state’s 44 county clerks who oversee and administer elections.
But he says Idahoans can rest assured that the election will be run fairly and honestly.
“I think knowing where people sit actually helps so people can keep an eye on that,” McGrane told the Statesman. “We have very good people who are far and away much more dedicated to ensuring the process is fair above anything else, including supporting me.”
On Tuesday, Rep. Lawerence Denney, one of four Republicans in the race, criticized Ysursa’s acting as honorary co-chairman for McGrane. “Because of the appearance of conflict of interest, as secretary of state, I will not serve as anyone’s campaign chairman for any campaign over which I serve as the chief election judge,” Denney said. “Doing otherwise sends the wrong message for the chief elections officer.”
Ysursa, who also is co-chairman of Gov. Butch Otter’s campaign, has said he doesn’t count ballots and won’t play favorites in the May 20 primary.
“I think Idaho voters consider Ben to be a model of integrity and fairness,” McGrane said. “Ben’s done this in the past. There’s nothing unique, other than this happens to be the secretary of state’s race.”
In a letter to the editor to the Statesman last week, Mike Ray of Rexburg said he’ll be supporting another candidate because of McGrane’s endorsements from clerks. “(T)hey will be counting the ballots of the very person they are openly and financially supporting,” Ray wrote. “This disturbs me.”
McGrane, who is Ada County chief deputy clerk, said he’s stepping back from overseeing the vote count in the primary. “Because of any appearances, I’m going to be much more removed.”
As usual, the public, candidates, party officials and reporters are welcome to watch vote counting in Ada County, McGrane said.
Also, two more web cams are being installed to display the tabulation room at the Ada Clerk’s office. “You can hop online and watch us count the ballots live as they cross the tabulator,” McGrane said.
An upgrade eliminating the need for a plug-in to view is expected by the first week in May. Web cams cover the received absentee ballot cage, two blank ballot cages, the counted ballot cage and the elections warehouse.
Poll watchers designated by candidates and political parties to staff polling places must sign up with county clerks by May 8. At 2 p.m. on May 15, the public is invited to attend a logic and accuracy test at the Ada Clerk’s office, 400 Benjamin Lane, Boise.
“We want to be very open,” McGrane said. “If anything, I think it’s going to heighten people’s awareness to make sure it’s a very fair, smooth running election.”
McGrane and Denney are joined by former Sens. Mitch Toryanski and Evan Frasure in the GOP race. The winner will contest Democratic Rep. Holli Woodings in November.