Thankfully for the sanity of Americans across the country, Washington isn't a battleground state for the presidency that could determine the outcome of the Electoral College. One can only imagine the conspiracy theories and wall to wall coverage of TV talking heads exploding as vote results from Washington trickle in little by little, first days and then weeks after Election Day, as the country anxiously waits to learn who the next president would be.
While Americans in general won't have to be put through this type of turmoil (unless things go poorly in Ohio), unfortunately for Washingtonians, this is exactly what we have to look forward to based on the closeness of several state races. Two new polls out today (UW and KING 5) show several races are within the margin of error, including an essentially tied race for Governor.
With races this close it is hard to imagine enough votes will have been returned and counted by Election Day to declare a winner.
Though some may see fraud or mischief as the vote totals flip in the days or weeks following November 6, the real problem of Washington's month-long election is the cynicism and distrust it unnecessarily breeds in the state's election results.
It doesn't have to be this way. In fact, all we have to do is look across the Columbia River to Oregon to see a working alternative.
Thanks to a bill adopted in 2011, all of Washington is now vote by mail. Unlike in Oregon (that is also all vote by mail), however, Washington ballots aren't due on Election Day, but simply need to be postmarked before then.
According to an email from Brenda Bayes, Elections Deputy Director for Oregon, the state's 14-year requirement of ballots being due by 8 p.m. on Election Day is working well.
“Oregon has been a complete vote by mail state since voters cast their ballot to expand vote by mail to all elections by a vote of 757,204 to 334,021 at the 1998 general election. Voters have now had experience in Oregon's vote by mail system for fourteen years. A voter has many different ways to ensure that their voted ballot is received by the county elections officials no later than 8:00 pm on Election Day. County dropsites are placed throughout the state starting the 18th day prior to an election up through 8:00 pm on Election Day. Voters have the option of dropping their ballots off at official dropsites, mailing their ballot by mail or dropping their ballot off at any county elections office.
If a voter is concerned about their ballot they may track their ballot online at oregonvotes.gov to see if their ballot has been sent or received, contact their county elections office or contact our office to inquire into the status of their ballot. Oregon continually educates voters on the election process and deadlines in publications such as county or statewide voters' pamphlets, informational inserts received with their ballots, publications on county websites and media announcements.
Our office typically does not receive complaints regarding a voter feeling like they are 'disenfranchised' solely based upon the 8:00 pm restriction. An individual may contact their legislature if they wish to ask them to draft a bill during session to allow for postmarks on ballot. To my knowledge, there has not been any such legislation to extend this deadline. Oregon voters appear to appreciate that they are able to have 'unofficial results' quickly after the 8:00 pm deadline regarding candidates and measures. If Oregon were to go to a 'postmark' deadline it would delay these unofficial results.”
Retiring Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed supports requiring mail-in ballots to be turned in by Election Day. Last year HB 1185 and companion proposal SB 5125 were introduced to make this change, but were not acted on by the Legislature (though SB 5125 did receive a hearing).
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