Special ballot needs explanation


I read with interest the Nov. 15 letter, "Ballot wasn’t put into box," from Janet L. Le Fort of Everett regarding her ballot. Given the interest in the various components of the election process as a result of the Florida recount in the President’s race, I wanted to respond to Ms. Le Fort’s concerns.

In the state of Washington, and also as a requirement of the National Voter Registration Act passed in 1992, we have a process in place that deals with voters who go to a polling place to vote, but their name is not in the poll books or the poll worker is unable to find their name in the poll books. It is referred to as a Special Ballot or Fail-Safe Voting. The presumption is that if a voter says they are registered to vote then the poll workers are to assume the voter is correct. However, if the voter’s name is not in the poll book or can not be found in the poll book the voter must vote by a Special Ballot.

This ballot is placed in a security envelope and then sealed in an outer envelope. On the outside of the outer envelope the voter signs and gives their address. The Inspector explains why the voter is voting this Special Ballot. Usually, it is that the voter’s name is not in any of the poll books at the polling place. The poll workers cannot do the necessary research at the polls as the voter registration records are in the Auditor’s Office.

All of these Special Ballots are placed in a separate envelope at the polling place, which is then placed in the ballot box, and they are returned to the Auditor’s Office after the close of polls on election night. Auditor’s Office staff then research each of these voter’s circumstances and most often the issue is that the voter has recently moved and has not let the Auditor’s Office know. In that case the voter’s name will be on the poll books at the polling place associated with their previous address. Sometimes the voter is not registered to vote. If it is determined the voter is registered to vote in Snohomish County then the ballot is processed and counted. If it is determined that the voter is not registered then the ballot is not counted. If corrections need to be made to the voter registration records in our office, that is also done so that the next time the voter’s name will be on the poll books where they are now living and voting.

I have discussed this with Ms. Le Fort on the phone and in her case the poll workers simply made a mistake in looking for her name in the poll books. In fact we checked the poll books for Ms. Le Fort’s polling place and her name is in the book and she is a registered voter in Snohomish County therefore her special ballot will be counted.

All voters in Snohomish County and in the state of Washington are dealt with in this way whenever their names are not in the poll books at the polling place where they believe they should be voting. The purpose of a Special Ballot is to extend the opportunity to vote to any voter on election day so that any registration or address issues do not prevent the voter from voting.

In this November General Election we had 6,248 Special Ballots which will be all researched and processed and those entitled to vote will be counted in the final count of ballots on November 17th and November 22nd.

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