Dori: Why use a ballot to vote when you can use a napkin?

Nov 16, 2021, 2:44 PM | Updated: Nov 18, 2021, 8:30 am
napkin ballot...
An election ballot in King County.

If you’re someone who has ever cast a ballot in any election, this is going to absolutely shock you.

With credit to frequent Dori Monson Show news source and citizen journalist Katie Daviscourt, we need to direct you to a story she broke in

Daviscourt shares video of a Nov. 13, 2021, training session for King County elections review panelists. In it, the trainer/elections official uses an example from ballot reviews on Nov. 2, 2021. Shown on the screen was an apparent page profiling Seattle mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez (D).

According to the official, it was included in an envelope with a missing ballot. Near the bottom of this ripped-out page, there was a mark that can be construed as a checkmark or an inverted V. However, since this attempt-at-a-ballot did not have Gonzalez’ name circled, the official reported, the vote was not counted.

This example prompted one of the trainees to ask the King County Elections official about a separate scenario.

“So, even if someone took a napkin and wrote the office, the race, and their selection, that would be enough?” the trainee questioned.

The official’s response: “That would be enough, and we would count that as a vote.”

The verdict, according to this elections official: You can vote on a napkin in King County.

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Mail-in balloting leads to these kinds of irregularities, Dori believes. Before mail-in balloting, this never would have happened, he adds. Voters would have gone to an assigned location, signed their name where an official would confirm that you were not only registered to vote, but that your Election Day signature matched your voter registration.

Listeners responding to the KIRO Radio text line were appalled. Here is what a few of them had to say:

From the 425: “When I fill out a ballot, if I don’t fill in those little circles exactly as instructed, the ballot is thrown out, so how do you do that with a napkin?”

From the 206: “No napkins. They’re filling up our landfills.”

From the 425: “Voting on a napkin is RIDICULOUS! How will they verify? And how will they prevent someone voting twice or more? … I have recently moved out of WA to ID (I’ll let you guess why). I voted in person. It was great.”

From the 425: “Shouldn’t you have to vote on a sanitary napkin to insure clean elections in Washington?”

From Steve at Northgate: “It’s not who votes that counts; it’s who counts the votes that counts.”

UPDATE, 11/17: 

Many Tuesday listeners to our show were as shocked as I was to watch a recent video from a King County Elections Canvassing Board training officer talk about what makes a legitimate, countable ballot in our area.

Napkin and scrap-paper voting sounds not only cavalier, but downright sketchy to me – so I reached out to outgoing Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who oversees elections for all 39 counties in the state to explain why this is allowed.

Always gracious and available to the show, Wyman came on to explain not only why this is a real thing – but also shared some specific details about what I call King County’s “fuzzy numbers” from 2004, ultimately flipping that year’s outcome from Republican Dino Rossi to Democrat Christine Gregoire for Washington state governor.

For starters, Wyman tells us, the napkin voting scenarios – while not specifically – have been approved by Washington state. It is the state’s interpretation of what the voter means.

“If you can determine or discern the voter’s intent, you may count the ballot,” Wyman explained.

But it was Wyman’s insights into the 2004 gubernatorial ballot-counting fiasco that added even greater depth to our interview.

She reminded me that as Thurston County auditor in 2004, she vividly recalls a kind of King County elections office culture of “close-enough-was-good-enough.” As a result, as long as the tallies came out “plus or minus 3, it was considered balanced.”

With anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 poll books in King County to reconcile, she continues, that “plus-or-minus-3” became “problematic.”

When I again pressed her about whether she believes the Gregoire/Rossi race was stolen from the Republicans, she told me and my listeners: “I have no doubt that no one can actually prove it or disprove it. I think it was a complete lack of accountability and ability to defend the election all these years later.”

Today, she says, King County’s process, which is like “a bank with checks and balances,” has evolved into something “good and positive – but that stigma is always going to be there.”

Before I let her go, I asked Wyman about why – as the only Republican elected to a statewide office on the West Coast in 2020 – she was leaving the secretary of state’s office for a new job in Washington, D.C. Starting Monday, Wyman is expected to become the new election security lead for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

“I’m sorry I’m not completing my term. That’s the hardest decision on this job offer, … but it truly is, Dori, a call to duty.” Wyman told me, as she began to choke up. “It was service that brought me to Washington 30 years ago and it’s service that is taking me away. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to get teary on your show.”

“Don’t feel bad,” I reassured her. “I can make even the most toughened person cry.”

“I know – but you cry, too, you’re a weeper, too, so I’m OK.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here

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Dori: Why use a ballot to vote when you can use a napkin?