Seal of approval for mail ballots

By Janice Podsada

Herald Writer

On election day, there are two kinds of voters: those with an "I voted" sticker and those without one.

Even though absentee voters dutifully sign, seal and mail their ballots in, they just don’t have the sticker to prove it.

That could change next year, Snohomish County Auditor Bob Terwilliger says.

"We’re in the process of looking at including a sticker, an ‘I voted’ sticker, in the absentee ballots," he says. "The same one you get at the polling place, with the flag on it."

At this point, the only sticking point is cost.

"If the money is tight, we can’t do it," Terwilliger says. "But if we implement it, it would begin in fall 2002."

There are 324,000 registered voters in Snohomish County. Of that number, 152,000 voters are registered as permanent absentee voters.

Absentee voters can still get a sticker, but they have to make an effort.

"You can vote at home. You have all your information laid out on the table, then at the last minute you can drive it to any polling place — you don’t have to take it to your assigned polling place."

About 10 percent of absentee voters drop off their ballots at a polling place instead of mailing it.

"The number is growing," Terwilliger says. "It started in 1998; more and more people are doing it."

If you’re a Snohomish County voter, you can drop your ballot off at a King County polling place, or vice versa, and "your vote still gets counted," Terwilliger says.

Voters who drop their absentee ballots at a polling place receive an "I voted" sticker.

Neither Snohomish nor King County includes an "I voted" sticker with absentee ballots, but Pierce County does.

In Pierce County, 70 percent of voters vote absentee, says Candy Yarbrough with the Pierce County Auditor’s Office.

The Pierce County Auditor’s Office began including the "I voted" stickers in absentee ballots in 1994, Yarbrough says.

"Pierce County Auditor Cathy Pearsall-Stipek knew that people liked getting them at the polls, so she wanted to be sure people got them in their absentee ballots."

Tara Deckett of Bothell voted by absentee ballot this week. She prefers the method because it allows her to refer to the pamphlet while she’s casting her vote.

Deckett says she would welcome an "I voted" sticker with her mail-in ballot.

"I think that would be great. It especially would be neat since it has the flag on it."

You can call Herald Writer Janice Podsada at 425-339-3029 or send e-mail to podsada@heraldnet.com.

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