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How coronavirus is impacting mail-in voting in Washington and nationally

(AP Photo/John Froschauer, File)

There’s a national conversation on mail-in voting, but the system in place in Washington now wasn’t built overnight, and appears to have taken about a decade or so before it got to the place where everyone is comfortable with mail-in ballots.

Will it be risky for other states to try and get it going within a much shorter amount of time? Secretary of State Kim Wyman told Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that it’s going to take a massive effort.

“Most of the states have already had their primary, so they’re looking toward the general election. But even a few months is going to be a massive lift for those states that are not used to high volumes of absentee ballots or vote-by-mail elections. I think what you’re going to see across the country is a hybrid,” Wyman said.

Every state will have a hybrid mix that will include mail-in voting and some form of in-person voting, she explained.

“So here in Washington, about 2% of our votes will be cast in person. The vast majority will be cast by mail, but you have some states where it’s going to be just the opposite of that, probably not that same mix. But probably 30% of the ballots will be cast by mail and 70% might be cast in person,” Wyman said. “Election officials are working hard to make sure that that process is fair, and safe, and accurate.”

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As Jason suggested, there’s also the side issue that secretaries of states across the country don’t necessarily have any way of maintaining a postal service that delivers on time. A recent story in The Philadelphia Inquirer covered how they’ve been understaffed, with some waiting weeks for regular mail. Is that a potential here in Washington state, or is the postal service reasonably well staffed?

“Well, we’re certainly concerned with the cuts and the end of overtime directive that was given to the postal workers recently, that it’s going to have a ripple effect on ballot delivery and ballot return. Washington, again, because we’ve done this a long time, we have a very good relationship with our local postmasters and the leadership in the USPS here in Washington,” she said.

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“Right now, in our election cycle that we’re in for this primary, we have a daily call with them and our county election officers to talk about specific issues that are happening around the state. … We’re concerned, but we have a lot of options for voters,” Wyman added. “People can download a ballot if you didn’t receive it. Also, we have the ballot drop boxes. So if voters are worried about the ballot not getting postmarked in time, or it might not get to us in time, they can put the ballots in a ballot dropbox. We’ve been encouraging other states to take on similar measures to try to compensate for the challenges USPS is facing.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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