South County Politics: Voters in three Lynnwood precincts got ballots Tuesday

  • By Evan Smith Enterprise political writer
  • Tuesday, August 17, 2010 8:02pm

Voters in three Lynnwood-area precincts didn’t get their ballots for the Tuesday primary election until just a few hours before the ballots were due.

Two of the affected precincts are in Lynnwood, the other in nearby unincorporated Alderwood Manor.

In response, officials set up a special ballot-collections center at a retirement community in the affected area, a retirement community where many voters didn’t get ballots on time.

County elections manager Garth Fell said Tuesday morning that county officials discovered the error Monday after noticing a low rate of return for the affected precincts. They started getting phone calls from voters in the area about ballots that didn’t come.

Elections officials sent ballots to voters in the area with priority designation.

Voters whose ballots didn’t arrive Tuesday could get a ballot by e-mail, which they could mark and leave at the retirement community or the Lynnwood Library, or they could vote in person at the accessible voting site at the Lynnwood Library.

Should voters worry about ballot signatures?

Some voters complain about their signatures being visible on the outside of ballots, but Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel said they shouldn’t.

Elections officials from around the state persuaded legislators this year to let them eliminate the flap that covered signatures on the outside of ballot envelopes.

Weikel said the flapless envelopes save the county about $60,000 per year because they are easier to print and easier to process.

Officials say the savings come with little loss of privacy because voters’ signatures have been public as long as we’ve held elections and, as a King County official said, fewer people see a ballot envelope than see the sign-in sheet at a polling place.

California copies Washington primary again

As Washington used the top-two primary for the second time to choose legislative and Congressional candidates, it got a partner.

California voters recently adopted a top-two primary.

It was the second time California has copied Washington.

In 1996, California adopted a blanket primary like the system Washington had used for six decades.

That made California the third state — after Washington and Alaska — in which a primary voter wasn’t limited to one party’s ballot.

California adopting the blanket primary led to a lawsuit that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in 2000 that the blanket primary was unconstitutional.

California went back to its party-registration system.

Then-Gov. Gary Locke gave us the private-choice or pick-a-party primary borrowed from Montana. Idaho, Illinois, Wisconsin and four other states, but Washington voters rebelled and chose the top-two system.

The political parties sued, claiming that the system deprived them of control over their party names. When the U.S. Supreme Court approved the system in 2008, it gave a nod to the parties’ argument. That’s what led to candidates running with party preferences rather than party affiliation.

California will attack the party-name problem differently. Candidates won’t have any party-identification listed on the ballot, but California will keep the party-registration system it has had for generations; so a candidate’s party identification will be public record. That will eliminate the situation we see in the 32nd District, where a Republican precinct committee officer ran for state representative with a Democratic Party preference.

Still, California’s parties will find other grounds for a suit.

Washington’s top-two primary is already headed back to court with a claim that Washington’s system confuses voters because it includes one non-top-two section — for precinct committee officer.

Evan Smith can be reached at

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