Dunshee mails test ballot with no postage and it comes back

EVERETT — Hans Dunshee mailed his ballot without postage to test whether it would reach Snohomish County elections officials.

It didn’t.

After his ballot was returned as undelivered through the mail, the county councilman has doubts that all ballots will get counted.

“It can’t be just me,” Dunshee said. “I’m fine. I’m going to get my ballot in. I just worry about other people.”

Because of their extra weight, this year’s longer-than-normal ballots require 68 cents of postage, 21 cents more than a first-class stamp.

Dunshee earlier this fall pushed for a council resolution urging the county Auditor’s Office to advertise that ballots still would be delivered with insufficient postage or no stamp at all.

The county and the U.S. Postal Service already had an agreement to that effect in place. It wasn’t widely advertised, though.

Lake Stevens City Council President Sam Low, who is challenging Dunshee for his District 5 council seat in Tuesday’s election, said his opponent’s effort calling attention to the postage agreement was irresponsible and would cost the county money, without changing anything in practice.

Auditor Carolyn Weikel, who oversees local elections, said four of her employees also tested mailing ballots with insufficient or no postage and all of their ballots arrived at her office. After hearing from Dunshee on Wednesday, her elections staff contacted postal officials, who assured them they would remind carriers to deliver ballots with or without a stamp.

“The best way to make sure your ballot gets to us timely is to put 68 cents of postage on the envelope,” Weikel said. “The Post Office is a good partner of ours, but they’re handling a lot of mail.”

Ernie Swanson, a Postal Service spokesman, confirmed that all carriers should be aware of the policy making an exception for lack of postage on ballots.

Another option is taking ballots to one of the auditor’s dozen secure drop boxes around the county.

Voters are still scooting in ahead of deadline for Tuesday’s general election.

As of Wednesday morning, 22 percent of Snohomish County voters had submitted their ballots, according to the secretary of state’s website. Twenty-nine percent of ballots had been returned statewide.

Monday marked the last day for voters to register before the election.

People filtered into the county Auditor’s Office in ones and twos Saturday to beat the registration deadline. The steady traffic left a trail of tracked-in leaves.

Chief Deputy Auditor Connie Barndt said office staff fielded on average 550 to 600 calls per day last week. On Monday, they answered about 800 calls.

More than 135 people swung by to register Saturday. And more than double that number Monday, Weikel said.

Terra D’Adamo, of Edmonds, recently moved back to Washington from Florida. D’Adamo, 71, initially didn’t want to vote, she said. She wasn’t looking forward to this year’s election. She registered Saturday.

Trever Tuck, 19, of Everett, missed the deadline to register by mail. He had been in France filming videos about Syrian refugees for a nonprofit at the time.

He proudly told the people he met in France that he is from Washington. Now, he can officially identify as a Washington voter.

On his way out of the Auditor’s Office, he snagged an “I voted” sticker to display on his jacket.

“The last time there was an important election, I was in fourth grade reading about it in Time magazine,” Tuck said.

Ballots must be mailed or returned to a drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Both Washington gubernatorial candidates were planning to visit Snohomish County on Thursday, as they travel the state to get out the vote.

Gov. Jay Inslee plans to stop at a Democratic Party campaign office at 2817A Rucker Ave. in Everett at 6:40 p.m. and at another campaign office at 27110 90th Ave. NW in Stanwood at 5:30 p.m.

Republican gubernatorial challenger Bill Bryant planned to make an appearance in Snohomish from noon to 1 p.m. as part of a bus tour. The address for that event is 580 Bickford Ave., Suite 201.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins@heraldnet.com.

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