As of Thursday afternoon, Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel’s elections office reported it had about 101,000 ballots yet to count in Tuesday’s election, less than half of the 211,208 it had received and about a quarter of the county’s 416,389 registered voters.
The uncounted ballots are a significant number with the potential to have a bearing on at least three relatively close legislative races in the county and one very close statewide measure, I-1351, and it means that the results of those races may not be clear for a few days, even as a few straggling votes work their way through the mail and are processed and recorded.
The suspense apparently has been a little too much for some folks, specifically the editorial board of The Seattle Times, which came out Wednesday advocating for a change in election law that would require ballots be received by each county elections office on Election Day, rather than the current requirement that they be dropped off or mailed by Election Day.
Only 50 percent to 60 percent of ballots were expected to arrive at county election offices by Election Day, The Times fretted.
“It will take another three days for about 95 percent of the eventual total to arrive and be counted,” it continued.
OK. So a week-long wait for some election numbers is a problem, how?
Election results won’t be official and certified by the secretary of state until Dec. 4. The Legislature won’t convene until Jan. 12. Even if a recount becomes necessary in any race, it’s unlikely — short of a court challenge — to bump up against those dates. And a week-long delay wouldn’t make much difference.
What could make a difference, however, is the loss of a few more days to get ballots in and the potential for lower voter turnout. There’s also a loss of certainty that your vote will be counted. If it’s mailed by Saturday, will your ballot get there by Tuesday? Probably. But certainly? No.
Sometimes relevant information doesn’t surface until late in a campaign.
Those who vote in the 44th Legislative District and who waited until Election Day to vote had the benefit of the results of an Everett School District investigation into candidate Mike Wilson, a Cascade High School teacher. Released the day before Election Day, the investigation report faulted the Democratic candidate for using a school district computer to send and receive a handful of campaign emails, but cleared him of an unrelated allegation that he was involved in sending students on the cross-country team out to doorbell for him. It’s information that likely would have mattered to more than a few voters, but it would have been useless if ballots had to be returned before the Monday release of the report.
Weikel admits it would make her life easier if she could shut the door to ballots on Election Day.
“But Washington state is a ‘voter intent state,’ which means we do everything we can to make voting easy and convenient,” she said.
Timely election results are desirable. But more important is that every ballot marked and sent by Election Day is counted.
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