The dark side of mail-in voting

By JOHN HUGHES

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Washington state and Oregon have bent over backward to give residents the opportunity to vote.

It’s so easy, in fact, that voters don’t even have to go to the polls. Mail-in and absentee ballots can be filled in at the kitchen table. In Washington, they don’t have to be dropped in the mail until Election Day.

But the election was Tuesday, and voters in both states are still waiting to find out who won some major races.

"We’re so darn convenient we can’t count," quipped James Moore, a political science professor at the University of Portland. "It’s the dark side of mail balloting."

It might take two weeks to determine whether GOP Sen. Slade Gorton won re-election against Democrat Maria Cantwell in Washington state. The candidates waited for counties to tally 600,000 absentee ballots.

In Oregon, the only state in the nation to conduct an all-mail election, it was taking days for officials to determine whether Republican George W. Bush or Democrat Al Gore won the state’s seven electoral votes.

The waiting may be inconvenient for voters, but it can be agonizing for candidates and their supporters.

If Washington state voters’ ballots had to reach election officials on or before Election Day, "It would be much quicker and faster to count them," said Cynthia Bergman, a spokeswoman for Gorton. "We would know by now."

The slow count is drawing attention from officeholders.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said he would sponsor legislation in Congress to have a bipartisan national commission examine how federal elections are conducted. Among other things, DeFazio said, the commission would examine whether new technology could help states tabulate votes more quickly. And Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said there needs to be a comprehensive review of Oregon’s balloting to look for ways to tabulate votes more quickly.

Election officials acknowledge they narrowly avoided a circus this year in the presidential race. If a few other states had voted differently, and Washington state’s presidential race had been closer, the nation could have been waiting on the Pacific Northwest — rather than Florida — to determine the next president.

But there is no easy solution for speeding up returns, officials said.

Paddy McGuire, chief of staff for Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, said the reason it takes time to tally Oregon ballots is that election officials may double- and triple-check signatures on ballots to be sure they are authentic.

"We’ve made a judgment here to balance the convenience to voters and the need to protect against fraud," he said.

In Washington state, some argue voters should be required to have their absentee ballots reach election officials by Election Day the same requirement Oregonians face.

However, Gary McIntosh, state elections director for the Washington secretary of state’s office, said he was inundated with calls from reporters, party officials and candidates — but he did not hear from a single voter.

"I don’t think that most voters for the most part see this as an issue," McIntosh said. "For a lot of voters they’re willing to wait to find out who won."

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Alan Edward Dean, convicted of the 1993 murder of Melissa Lee, professes his innocence in the courtroom during his sentencing Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Bothell man gets 26 years in cold case murder of Melissa Lee, 15

“I’m innocent, not guilty. … They planted that DNA. I’ve been framed,” said Alan Edward Dean, as he was sentenced for the 1993 murder.

FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Sept. 30, 2020. Boeing said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, that it took more than 200 net orders for passenger airplanes in December and finished 2022 with its best year since 2018, which was before two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max jet and a pandemic that choked off demand for new planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing’s $3.9B cash burn adds urgency to revival plan

Boeing’s first three months of the year have been overshadowed by the fallout from a near-catastrophic incident in January.

Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
Bail set at $2M in wrong-way crash that killed Lynnwood woman, 83

The Kenmore man, 37, fled police, crashed into a GMC Yukon and killed Trudy Slanger on Highway 525, according to court papers.

A voter turns in a ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
On fourth try, Arlington Heights voters overwhelmingly pass fire levy

Meanwhile, in another ballot that gave North County voters deja vu, Lakewood voters appeared to pass two levies for school funding.

Judge Whitney Rivera, who begins her appointment to Snohomish County Superior Court in May, stands in the Edmonds Municipal Court on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge thought her clerk ‘needed more challenge’; now, she’s her successor

Whitney Rivera will be the first judge of Pacific Islander descent to serve on the Snohomish County Superior Court bench.

In this Jan. 4, 2019 photo, workers and other officials gather outside the Sky Valley Education Center school in Monroe, Wash., before going inside to collect samples for testing. The samples were tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as well as dioxins and furans. A lawsuit filed on behalf of several families and teachers claims that officials failed to adequately respond to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judge halves $784M for women exposed to Monsanto chemicals at Monroe school

Monsanto lawyers argued “arbitrary and excessive” damages in the Sky Valley Education Center case “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

Officers respond to a ferry traffic disturbance Tuesday after a woman in a motorhome threatened to drive off the dock, authorities said. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Police Department)
Everett woman disrupts ferry, threatens to drive motorhome into water

Police arrested the woman at the Mukilteo ferry terminal Tuesday morning after using pepper-ball rounds to get her out.

Bothell
Man gets 75 years for terrorizing exes in Bothell, Mukilteo

In 2021, Joseph Sims broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home in Bothell and assaulted her. He went on a crime spree from there.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.