Some state lawmakers want faster election results

OLYMPIA — It’s well known that in Washington state, elections often don’t end on election night, because the state’s vote-by-mail system ensures that any close race will be unsettled for days afterward.

But one measure introduced by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, would require ballots on election night to be processed and counted until midnight, unless there are no more ballots on hand to count. However, because current law only requires that ballots be postmarked by Election Day, many voters drop ballots in the mail or into special drop boxes that day, meaning the forms often don’t reach election officials for several more days. The system usually leaves about half of the vote outstanding at the end of the night.

During this past election in November, all of the state’s counties — except for Pierce, which did three — did one count shortly after the 8 p.m. “poll close” deadline and then resumed tally updates in the following days and weeks. The governor’s race wasn’t called until the end of election week, and other races that were too close to call went even longer.

Van De Wege said after increasingly longer election cycles end, voters “want to know it’s over and what the results are.”

Van De Wege said he’s not looking to change the postmark deadline, saying that “there’s good and bad points” to the current system. He said he leans more toward continuing to allow people to mail in their ballots on Election Day.

“The aim is to try and get those results a little faster,” he said.

Van De Wege’s bill is set to have a hearing Thursday before the House Government Operations &Elections Committee.

Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden, and ranking Republican on the committee, said that potential costs to the counties was just one of his concerns about the bill.

“Working on ballots and going late into the night, you’re apt to see more incidents of mistakes,” he said.

Rep. Sam Hunt, a Democrat from Olympia who is chairman of the committee, said auditors may be concerned about costs related with working later on election night, “but I think they could probably pay about the same money and they’d have fewer hours counting at the end.” Counties have two weeks to certify a primary election or special election and three weeks to certify a general election.

But Secretary of State Kim Wyman said that she didn’t think the extra hours on election night would give definitive results, noting that there is a multi-step process required for processing ballots and validating signatures before they can be counted that naturally slows down the process.

“I’m not sure you’re going to have any more meaningful results at 1 a.m., but you’ll spend more money getting there,” she said. “You can’t have fast and accurate and low cost.”

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said that there’s no way to count every ballot in hand on election night, due to the steps they need to take to give voters a second chance if they didn’t sign their envelope or if their signature doesn’t match.

“We can either have results on election night and tell voters `tough luck if you don’t get it right, you’ve thrown your vote away,’ or it can take a little longer, and we can give those voters a second choice to have their vote counted the way they intended,” she said. “You can’t have it both ways.”

Washington state is one of more than two dozen states that allow voters to cast absentee ballots without an excuse like illness, disability or travel. Numerous other states, like Florida, allow early voting at poll sites, along with absentee ballots. Most no-excuse absentee states, including Oregon, which is also 100 percent vote-by-mail, require ballots to be in by the time the polls close on Election Day, if not earlier.

Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who is chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Operations Committee, said she’s supportive of Van De Wege’s bill, which would end up before her committee if it passes the House. She also said she’s introducing her own bill within the next week that would require ballots to be in by Election Day, like in Oregon.

“There are a lot of ways we can get our results sooner,” she said.

Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson said she’s not personally opposed to the postmark change, saying that it’s a more simplified message for voters and adds clarity. But, she stressed that even that change wouldn’t substantially speed up election results because of all of the security measures workers take.

“We’re never going to get to a point in a vote-by-mail state where you’re going to know before you go to bed who has won or lost a race in a close race,” she said.

———

The measure is House Bill 1102.

———

Online:

www.leg.wa.gov

More in Local News

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Officials to test sanity of suspect in Everett crime spree

He allegedly tried to rob and clobber a transit worker, then fled and struggled with police.

Katharine Graham, then CEO and chairwoman of the board of The Washington Post Co., looks over a copy of The Daily Herald with Larry Hanson, then The Herald’s publisher, during her visit to Everett on Sept. 20, 1984. The Washington Post Co. owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. (Herald archives)
Everett’s brush with Katharine Graham, leader of ‘The Post’

Retired Herald publisher Larry Hanson recalls The Washington Post publisher’s visits.

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Families seek to change wrongful death law

A bill would allow or parents or siblings who wish to pursue a suit for an unmarried, childless adult.

Most Read