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9,000 ballots left to count in King County, why does it take so long?

Says King County elections spokesperson Kim Van Eckstrom, "Some voters write a lot of things on their ballots that are maybe are a little bit more challenging because we have to sit down and we have to review them with respect to voter intent and to make sure that we're recording them properly." (AP Photo/File)

The ballot count continues in King County but there are still thousands left to count and two very tight races. Why does it take so long?

County elections spokesperson Kim Van Eckstrom talked with KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. She says the type of ballots they’re counting now could take a while, for example there are still 9,000 ballots where the signatures don’t match.

Van Eckstrom: Many of the ballots we have not yet counted are the ballots where a voter may have made a selection and then changed their mind, so they followed the instructions to cross it out and write something else in. There are ballots that a person might have filled out in something other than a black ink pen that our scanners can’t read.

Some voters write a lot of things on their ballots that are maybe a little bit more challenging because we have to sit down and we have to review them with respect to voter intent and to make sure that we’re recording them properly.

Ross: Write a lot of things like what? Anti-government screeds? Illustrations of Micky Mouse? What do they do?

E: Just about anything that you can think of that the voter could write, could show up on a ballot sometimes.

R: And what about the ones where the signatures aren’t there at all, and don’t match.

E: We’ve got right now, a little over 9,000 ballots that fit that bill.

R: 9,000 who fit that category? Whose job is it to contact all those people? It’s not just yours – don’t the parties also do that if they have people in areas where they think they might be voting in their favor?

E: It’s our job to contact them, and let the voters know there was a problem with their signature. And we do that right away. We send a letter out as soon as we check the signature. We send a letter out and we also have a robocall service.

It’s not unusual for campaigns to also request a list of names of voters whose signatures have been challenged – that is a publicly disclosable list, it cannot be used for commercial purposes, but it is something that we share.

R: So the parties then are free and they tend to do this only for the people who they think are going to vote in their favor, but the parties of the candidates are free to try and get people to ‘cure’ their signatures?

E: Yes, they can legally do that.

R: How many signatures have been cured since you started doing this process?

E: I don’t have that information handy. What I can tell you is in a typical election, we often see as many as half the signatures/challenges cured. That’s not unusual.

R: Well that means, literally thousands of ballots would go uncounted because the signatures haven’t been cured.

E: The good news is the voters are getting better and better at it every year. We see that number continuously inch its way down. But it’s very sad for us at the elections department when someone took the time to vote and forgot to sign or didn’t sign consistent with their registration. We really want to be able to process it.

R: The bottom line, by November 25 – that’s the deadline, whatever signatures have been left uncured by that date, those signatures don’t count, and you certify the ballots.

E: That’s correct, and that’s a great opportunity to remind anybody who has been contacted by the elections department about their signature, to follow up.

And you can follow up by calling this number: 206.296.VOTE or checking your
ballot status.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

  • Tune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.


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