Two days after Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez and numerous media outlets declared her Southwest Washington’s next congressperson, Republican Joe Kent remains searching for any last-minute votes to reverse his fortunes.
Kent has not conceded. On Saturday, he declared multiple newspapers’ declarations for Gluesenkamp Perez “irrelevant” and “another narrative designed to stop voters from ballot curing & to force me to concede.”
The retired Green Beret-turned-political candidate trailed by 4,400 votes on Monday, with fewer than 8,000 ballots left to be tabulated. Kent’s share of the votes would have to ramp up significantly for him to make up the difference.
In his statement, Kent alluded to what he and his campaign are doing in the meantime: ballot curing. That’s the practice of tracking down ballots that have been challenged by elections officials and ensuring they are counted, or “cured.”
In Clark County, there are approximately 5,200 challenged ballots, according to Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey.
Ballots can be challenged for a few different reasons, Kimsey said. The main snag is when a person’s signature doesn’t match the signature on record. The county compares the signature with your signature from voter registration or the state Department of Licensing.
Other issues, Kimsey said, are less common but could include an entirely missing signature, sending in a ballot from a previous year, or the ballot was postmarked after the election deadline.
Kent famously saw his own ballot flagged in the August primaries for a mismatched signature. Kent filled out a new signature card and had his vote counted, The Seattle Times reported.
Challenged ballots are on the rise, Kimsey noted to OPB. In the August primary, election officials didn’t count 2,700 cast ballots. In November 2020, that number was 2,300. Kimsey didn’t have a clear explanation why the number is up.
But, he noted, the number remains a fraction of the overall vote.
Kent supporters remain determined to look under every rock. On Sunday, the candidate posted a video saying he would not concede “until every legal vote is counted” and called on viewers to cure ballots if they are challenged. Joey Gibson, leader of the far-right group Patriot Prayer, also put out a call the same day for people to volunteer with the campaign to help cure votes, according to his Telegram channel.
The Kent campaign did not respond to requests for an interview.
Reached by phone on Monday, Gluesenkamp Perez’s campaign said they supported the ballot curing process. Campaign Manager Phil Gardner said they planned to do the same had they trailed.
“We encourage everybody to do that,” Gardner said.
Gardner said voters should always have their voice count, but he added that he didn’t believe Kent’s efforts will change the outcome.