85 ballots reach King County Elections Office after sitting in out-of-service mailbox

Nov 15, 2023, 10:26 AM

(Photo from KIRO 7)...

(Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

Eighty-five ballots from the mailbox on East John Court and 15th Avenue East in Seattle just reached the King County Elections Office on Tuesday after concerns were raised about that mailbox never being emptied.

A spokesperson with the King County Elections Office sent us this statement about the ordeal and what the next steps are in the counting process.

“King County Elections was alerted on Monday that there were concerns that a USPS mailbox on 15th & John was not being emptied during the voting period and that there were concerned voters who had dropped their ballots there. After learning of this, we immediately reached to USPS to look into what happened.

In their investigation, USPS reported back to us that the box had not been opened since mid-October. They retrieved the 85 ballots that were in the box and delivered them to our office on Tuesday, November 14.” – Halei Watkins, Communications Manager

Watkins told us that those ballots will be able to be counted despite the issue with the mailbox.

However, if a ballot doesn’t feature a postmark, they’ll look to other identifying barcodes from USPS. And if they don’t have that barcode, they can accept the date provided on the signature line.

“I think that the inefficiency of things can also make it hard for people to be able to get out and vote,” said Alejandro who lives in Capitol Hill.

As to how this all happened, a spokesperson with the United States Postal Services said they scheduled to remove and repair the mailbox due to a lock issue.

In a statement, they told us employees placed out-of-service signs on the mailbox multiple times, but the signage was removed, and unwitting customers continued to use the box.

“The U.S. Postal Service is committed to the timely and secure delivery of Election Mail.

We are aware of a collection box in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, scheduled for removal due to a lock issue. Our employees placed “out of service” signs on the box multiple times, but the signage was removed, and unwitting customers continued to use the box. We have now removed the collection box and its contents, including some Election Mail and ballots, and are delivering the mail. We are repairing the collection box and intend to reinstall it when repairs are complete. We regret any inconvenience to customers.” – Kim Frum, Strategic Communications Specialist

But some in Capitol Hill wonder if what the postal service said is true.

“At the very least, they could’ve directed people to one that is close by, or set up another temporary one, or there is a lot of options that you could do and not just say this is broken, sorry,” said Kenny who lives in Capitol Hill.

“It must’ve been out of service then or they knew it was out of service and they are now just trying to save face, maybe,” said Alejandro.

Whether this snag has impacted any tight races that are going on in King County is still a mystery. Stay with KIRO 7 for the latest election results.

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85 ballots reach King County Elections Office after sitting in out-of-service mailbox