Early return of ballots in Snohomish County smashes record

More than 78,000, or 15.3%, have already been sent in, easily beating a previous high set in 2008.

Election vote icon for general use.

EVERETT — Snohomish County is seeing ballots returned at a record rate, a sign of the intense interest in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Ballots were mailed to roughly 510,000 registered voters on Oct. 15, and by Tuesday evening 78,092, or 15.3%, had been returned, with the vast majority placed in drop boxes.

The amount smashes the previous high of 7,515 for a similar time frame. That occurred for the 2008 vote in which Barack Obama was elected president.

“This is impressive. It’s encouraging to see voters taking early action to vote and return their ballot,” Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell said in a statement. “With interest high and the COVID-19 pandemic still spreading in our community, we need voters to act today to ensure everyone’s voice is heard while keeping each other safe and healthy.”

Across the state, by midday Tuesday, 848,365 ballots, or 17.6% of more than 4.8 million that were mailed, were in, according to the Office of the Secretary of State. In 2016, just 6.2% of ballots had been returned in the same period.

Election officials across the state, including Fell, are urging voters to not wait until Election Day to turn in their ballot.

Acting early, they say, ensures voters have time to resolve any issues that might arise and their choices will be part of the vote counts posted Election Night.

Ballots can be placed in any of the county’s 30 designated drop boxes. Or they can be mailed without a stamp. Ballot-return envelopes need to be postmarked no later than Nov. 3. Every election, ballots are not counted because they arrive too late. The U.S. Postal Service recommends mailing them at least a week before Election Day.

Given the national conversation surrounding voter intimidation and suppression, Fell said security around ballot drop boxes has been increased to help ensure voters can access them without incident.

A private firm, Kaeka Group Inc., has been hired to perform security. Fell did not disclose how they will carry out their work, which will earn the firm an estimated $23,500.

In addition, some drop boxes are in locations at which there are video surveillance cameras.

Fell urged residents to call 911 if they see anyone actively interfering with a voter attempting to return their ballot to a drop box.

And if one sees signs of vandalism of a drop box, he asked that they email photos and the location to elections@snoco.org, and law enforcement will be alerted.

There is still time to register or to update your registration. You can do it online at www.vote.wa.gov until Oct. 26.

After that date, a person can go to the county auditor’s office until 8 p.m. on Election Day to register and vote. Same-day registration is the result of a law enacted in 2018.

Meanwhile, if you are registered and did not receive a ballot by Wednesday, contact the Snohomish County elections office at 425-388-3444.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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